The Appellate Division just declared that medical expenses above PIP limits chosen in a standard auto policy are recoverable from tortfeasors. The consolidated decision of Haines v. Taft and Little v. Nishimura involved plaintiffs who selected policies with $15,000 PIP limits under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.3(e). Before this decision, there were conflicting trial court opinions as to whether excess medicals could be recoverable, or whether any bills between the selected limit and the $250,000 statutory limit would be barred. The court in Haines/Little ruled that evidence of medical expenses between the $15,000 selected limit and the $250,000 statutory limit is admissible against a tortfeasor as “economic loss” defined by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2(k).
Hopefully the legislature and/or the Department of Banking & Insurance will act to mitigate this threat to the cost-saving measures of the limited policy legislation. Meanwhile, defense counsel and insurers will have to proactively contain excess medical expenses by applying bill reviews and other methods typically used by PIP carriers to evaluate reasonableness and necessity of medical expenses.
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