Petrillo & Goldberg Law Blog

Does the Verbal Threshold Mean I Cannot Sue?

New Jersey.
A “verbal threshold” refers to a legal requirement in some states, including New Jersey, that an injured person must meet certain criteria to be eligible to sue for non-economic damages (e.g., such as pain and suffering) in a personal injury lawsuit. States that have enacted verbal threshold-type legislation did so in order to give drivers the ability to trade the right to sue for non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) for lower premiums; keeping the right to sue to non-economic damages results in higher premiums.

In New Jersey, if you have opted for the verbal threshold, also known as the Limitation on Lawsuit Option, to sue for non-economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit you must prove at least one of the following:

  1. A bodily injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement or significant scarring;
  2. Displaced fractures;
  3. Loss of a fetus; or
  4. A permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement. An injury shall be considered permanent when the body part or organ, or both, has not healed to function normally and will not heal to function normally with further medical treatment.

See NJSA 39 §6A-8(a). If your injury does not meet the criteria, you may still be able to sue for economic damages (such as medical expenses and lost wages).

It is important to note that the criteria for getting past the verbal threshold in New Jersey can be complex and can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in New Jersey, it is recommended that you consult with a personal injury attorney who can evaluate your case and advise you on your legal options.

In 1990, Pennsylvania enacted the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law which established a “limited tort” car insurance system. This is similar to New Jersey’s “no-fault” system with the “verbal threshold.” Essentially, when you obtain car insurance in the Commonwealth, you must choose one of two types of coverage: “limited tort” or “full tort.”

  1. If you have opted for “limited tort” coverage, recoveries in Pennsylvania are complicated and you can only recover noneconomic damages after an accident if the person at fault for the accident:
  2. Is convicted or accepts Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance in that accident; Is operating a motor vehicle registered in another state;
  3. Intends to injure himself or another person…; or
  4. Has not maintained financial responsibility as required…

See 75 Pa. C.S. §1705. There are other exceptions to the bar to recovery, however, so it is best to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced motor vehicle accident attorney

If none of these exceptions apply, a driver with limited tort coverage may still be able to recover non-economic damages like pain and suffering if they suffer a “serious injury” which is defined as “A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” 75 Pa. C.S. §1702.

Retain experienced personal injury attorneys.
Proving that you have the right to sue despite the verbal threshold or limited tort coverage can be difficult and requires professional, objective medical evidence. This is where the attorneys of Petrillo & Goldberg Law can be of assistance. We can help guide you and help you understand verbal threshold issues. We have offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and South Jersey and are available to discuss the details of your case and your rights.