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Since 1972, the legislature has increasingly restricted the ability of injured people to sue    and recover from at fault drivers.  It has been further restricting it ever since.  The way this is always sold is that it will save you—the driver—money on your automobile insurance policy.  In fact, it has saved insurance companies millions of dollars on claims they haven’t had to pay or claims that have not been filed due to the threshold issue.

Medicine recognizes that soft tissue injuries can be serious.  The law, however, presumes they are not.

What is a “verbal threshold”?
The verbal threshold is called that because it describes with words (i.e. verbal) the types of injuries a people can recover for if they’re in car accidents.  Before the “verbal” threshold was the so-called monetary threshold which was based on how much money you had spent for medical treatment.

It’s called a “threshold” because it’s something you have to cross or go over before you can sue for the pain and suffering associated with injuries you suffered in an auto accident.

How do I know if the verbal threshold option applies to me?
You selected it when you bought your car insurance policy.

But I didn’t select a threshold when I purchased a car insurance policy….
Then you selected it.  If you don’t remember selecting anything then you will be given the verbal threshold on your policy.  If you don’t want the verbal threshold, YOU have to tell your insurance company or agent that you want the “no threshold” or “no limitation” option.

You might be surprised that a lot of people don’t even know whether they have a verbal threshold policy or not. It never ceases to amaze me how many people come into my office and do not know this basic but important information.  If you don’t know, go look at your policy and find out………

I looked at my policy and it doesn’t say “verbal threshold.”  So, I’m OK, right?
Not necessarily.  Sometimes it is also called “limitation on lawsuit” or “lawsuit threshold.”  Don’t be confused by that language.  If your policy says or your agent tells you that you have a “lawsuit threshold” it limits your right to sue.  If you are not absolutely, 100% sure call your insurance agent and tell him or her you do not want the verbal threshold or that you want the “NO LIMITATION ON LAWSUIT” threshold.  ONLY No Limitation/ No Threshold protects your right to recover money for pain and suffering no matter what the injury.

But the “verbal threshold” or “limitation on lawsuit” policy is cheaper, right?  So I benefit by buying that, right?
No. You get what you pay for and it’s a gamble. In the event of injury sustained in an accident, you are limited to recovery by the threshold option.  Know who else benefits? Careless drivers who cause accidents and then have no responsibility for the injuries they cause. Their insurance companies profit because they do not have to pay money to injured people…… and that injured person could be you.  I can appreciate the need to save money but it’s really not worth it.  There are other ways you can cut corners and be able to pay for a “no limitation on lawsuit” policy……… don’t have such a huge cable TV package.  Consider going out to dinner less.  The lower price of gas right now also helps everyone afford better coverage.  Take advantage of it.

It’s also important to remember that if you choose the Lawsuit Threshold or “verbal threshold,” you are not the only one who won’t be able to make a claim or sue.  Your coverage choice applies to your spouse and any children living with you who do not have their own automobile insurance coverage. They also lose the right to sue or even make a claim.

So before you decide to cut corners here, think about your family, too.

I tripped, fell and hurt myself on someone else’s private property, am I subject to the verbal threshold?
No.  The verbal threshold applies in some auto accident cases.  It doesn’t apply to fall downs on private property.  However, if you fell on government property, you’ll have to meet the requirements of the Tort Claims Act and that law has both a monetary and verbal threshold.

It says:
“No damages shall be awarded against a public entity or public employee for pain and suffering resulting from any injury; provided, however, that this limitation on the recovery of damages for pain and suffering shall not apply in cases of permanent loss of a bodily function, permanent disfigurement or dismemberment where the medical treatment expenses are in excess of $3,600.00.”

Also, to make a claim against a government entity, you generally must do so within 90 days.  So if you’ve fallen on government property and are injured, get to a lawyer right away.

The same goes for if you are involved in an auto accident with a government vehicle like a school bus.  You will have to meet the Tort Claims Act verbal and monetary thresholds and file your claim within 90 days.
To satisfy he Tort Claims act you will have to show, similar to with the verbal threshold law,  (1) an objective permanent injury, and (2) a permanent loss of a bodily function that is substantial.

Karim

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