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Governor Murphy Signs Two Bills into Law Overturning Haines v. Taft, Permitting Injured Automobile Accident Plaintiffs to Recover Unreimbursed Medical Expenses

By on August 23, 2019 in Damages, Legislation with 0 Comments

On August 15, 2019, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed two bills into law, which overruled the New Jersey Supreme Court opinion in the case of Haines v. Taft.  In the Haines case, the Court had held that plaintiffs could not seek to recover unreimbursed medical expenses as part of their damages incurred in an automobile accident for amounts less than the standard personal injury protection (PIP) limit of $250,000.  There was some dispute among the courts as to whether the Haines case applied to all automobile accident cases or just those in which only economic damages were at issue.  Regardless, based upon the new laws passed by New Jersey, the Haines v. Taft case has been overruled. 

Governor Murphy signed two bills into law. Both amended the same statute (N.J.S.A. 39:6A-12) but they have different effective dates. To understand these amendments, they need to be read together, along with the Legislative statement that accompanied the second bill, making it clear that the second bill revised the first bill upon the bill’s effective date for accidents occurring on or after August 1, 2019.

Based upon the first bill, S. 2432, plaintiffs can now enter into evidence their medical bills at the time of trial to the extent that they exceed their PIP limit, regardless of whether their PIP limit was the standard $250,000 or something less than that amount.  Specifically, the legislation provides as follows:

All medical expenses that exceed, or are unpaid or uncovered in the injured party’s medical expense benefits personal injury protection limits, regardless of any health insurance coverage, are claimable by any injured party as against all liable parties, including any self-funded health care plans that assert valid liens.

This bill went into effect immediately and applied to all causes of actions pending on that date or filed on or after that date.

As for the companion bill, S. 3963, that bill applies to claims arising from motor vehicle accidents taking place on or after August 1, 2019.  This statute permits plaintiffs to make claims for

,,,all unreimbursed medical expenses not covered by the personal injury protection limits applicable to the injured party and sustained by the injured party, including the value of any deductibles and copayments incurred through driver’s secondary insurance coverage and medical liens asserted by a health insurance company and related to the treatment of injuries sustained in the accident.

But, the major change in this revision of the law is that it provides that medical expenses shall be subject to the current automobile medical fee schedules.  According to the statement that accompanied the bill, the injured party cannot be balance billed for any medical expenses claimed as damages and paid pursuant to the medical fee schedule. 

Also, in any case in which the recovery is for medical expenses only, a prevailing claimant is entitled to reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees incurred by the prevailing claimant in the collection of such medical expenses.            

The term “prevailing claimant” is not defined in this bill but one can expect that plaintiffs’ counsel will make an attempt to obtain attorney’s fees when they settle claims that involve medical expenses only. Hence, when such a case is settled, the defendant/insurance company should be certain that the release includes all claims for attorney’s fees to prevent plaintiffs’ counsel from settling the case and then making a request for attorney’s fees to be paid.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Ms. Ramos is an Executive Committee Member and Co-Chair of the Litigation Department at Capehart Scatchard, P.A. located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She is an experienced litigator with over 30 years experience handling diverse matters. Practice areas include tort defense, business litigation, estate litigation, tort claims and civil rights defense, construction litigation, insurance coverage, employment litigation, shareholder disputes, and general litigation.

For the years 2020-2023, Ms. Ramos was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© in the practice area of Litigation - Insurance. The attorneys on this list are selected based upon the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. A complete description of The Best Lawyers in America© methodology can be viewed via their website at: https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology.

In 2021, Capehart Scatchard and Ms. Ramos received the “Best Law Firm” ranking in the area of Litigation – Insurance (Metro, Tier 3) published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®. Law firms included on the list are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have at least one attorney who has been included in the current edition of Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top five percent of practicing lawyers in the United States. Betsy Ramos (Litigation – Insurance) was recognized for this prestigious award in the 2021 edition. For a description of the “Best Law Firm” selection methodology please visit: https://bestlawfirms.usnews.com/methodology.aspx.

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