Two highway signs on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Understanding Auto Insurance Bodily Injury 

Imagine you’re driving to work in the morning, and you’re running a few minutes late. You’re anxiously watching the clock, practically willing the traffic in front of you to move a little faster. You know you should have left the house earlier, and now you’re running against time. You don’t know it yet, but it’s a good thing that you have auto insurance bodily injury coverage.

In the fifteen minutes that you’ve been on the road, you’ve been following the car in front of you a little too closely when suddenly traffic comes to a screeching halt and then, boom — you smash into the back of the car directly in front of you! After taking a few seconds to get over the initial shock, you get out of your car to check on the other driver only to find this person wincing in pain… this is when that bodily injury liability coverage comes into play.

It’s About More Than Just Property Coverage

You may primarily think of your auto insurance policy as covering the repair costs that result from physical damage to vehicles and other property. However, the most important protection you have in your car insurance policy deals directly with injury.

 The standard NJ auto policy is comprised of at least three types of coverage: bodily injury liability, property damage liability and personal injury protection. Two of these coverages pertain to injuries sustained in an auto accident. The state of New Jersey requires all drivers to carry minimum limits of liability insurance on their auto policies.

Auto Insurance: Bodily Injury Liability

Bodily injury coverage is for claims and lawsuits by other people physically injured as a direct result of a car accident that you cause. An auto accident that results in bodily injury may be from two or more vehicles colliding, or a motorist striking a pedestrian. The New Jersey minimum auto insurance limits for bodily injury are as follows:

  •         Minimum Required Limits - $15,000 per person; $30,000 per accident.

 Auto Insurance: Property Damage Liability

Property damage liability protection on your auto policy is for claims and lawsuits brought by other people who sustain property damage as a result of an auto accident caused by you. However, you will be required to select a coverage limit on your auto policy, which is the most the insurance company will pay for all damage to property resulting from an at-fault accident involving your vehicle.

  •         Minimum Required Limit - $5,000 per accident.

Auto Insurance: Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

The personal injury protection coverage is unique in that it’s in place for injuries sustained in a car accident either by you or other people involved who are covered under the protection of your insurance policy.

  •         Minimum Required Limit - $15,000 per person.
  •         Standard Limit - $250,000.

PIP is to pay for medical treatment for your own injuries and related expenses as a result of an accident. It includes coverage for passengers in your vehicle who have no coverage of their own and listed drivers on your policy. The PIP limit is how much YOUR policy will pay for medical expenses as a result of you being injured in an accident. If you select the minimum limit of $15,000 (or any other limit) but you sustain a devastating injury, that limit may be extended to $250,000 under state law. PIP is not a part of liability coverage: it does not pay the other driver for injuries you cause.

When selecting the limit for PIP, you also select which “tort threshold” option you want – Zero (Unlimited) or Limited. The tort threshold determines under what circumstances an injured person can make a claim against the at-fault driver for pain and suffering, which is an amount “over and above” the cost of medical treatment. If “Zero” is selected, an injured person can make a claim for any injury. If “Limited” is selected, only certain more serious injuries (as defined by the state) can result in a pain and suffering settlement. 

If pain and suffering is owed, it is paid under the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage, subject to that limit (although if the at-fault driver also owns a supplemental liability policy, such as an Umbrella policy, that coverage may also be tapped when the auto bodily injury liability limit is exhausted). There is no guarantee how much, if any, the injured person will receive – each case is unique. PIP does not cover pain and suffering because you can’t sue yourself for injuries you sustain in an accident. Also, if a Zero tort threshold is selected, it should be noted that it will result in a significant premium increase.

To summarize – the tort threshold YOU select determines if you can pursue a pain and suffering claim from the at-fault driver who caused your injuries. It doesn’t matter what threshold the at-fault driver has in regard to when YOU can sue. If the claim is successful, the pain and suffering settlement is then paid from the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage.

Final Thoughts on Auto Insurance and Bodily Injury

Vehicles and other personal property can always be replaced. Human life cannot be replaced or “repaired” like inanimate objects. Carrying coverage on your auto insurance policy to cover physical damage for your car and the vehicles of others is certainly important; however, the importance of having protection in place to cover bodily injury liability cannot be overstated. 

If you have questions about auto insurance bodily injury coverage, or the limits that you should have on your policy, call Plymouth Rock Assurance today to speak with a representative. Plymouth Rock has been insuring drivers in the Garden State for decades and consistently provides great value and quality service for auto insurance customers.   You can read more information here about different coverages, such as full-coverage insurance and gap insurance as well as why having insurance is so important.

Call 855-993-4470, get your free quote online or find a local agent to see how Plymouth Rock Assurance can help you find the best auto insurance bodily injury coverage. If you need additional information, please visit our Contact Us page.