The No-Fault Law has a remedial purpose, i.e., to reduce insurance premiums by weeding out frivolous claims and limiting recovery to significant injuries. This law is in derogation of a common-law right of an injured person to bring an action for injuries sustained in an automobile accident caused by the wrongful conduct of another motorist. Being remedial in nature, the No-Fault Law must be accorded a liberal interpretation and the widest application in order to carry out reforms intended. However, that law, being in derogation of common-law rights, also involves the “rule of strict construction,” which requires, therefore, an interpretation of the No-Fault law which “makes no further innovation upon common law rights than the particular case requires.” Courts are thus confronted with a conundrum caused not only by the above conflicting statutory requirements, but also by what often seems like an impossible task: to discern, on motion, the false and frivolous and to distinguish “minor, mild or slight” injury from appropriate claims. These impairments, though unobservable, can cause genuine quality of life changes in those who really suffer same. These are usually issues which are presented to jurors at trial, who have the benefit of live testimony and can make credibility determinations. The task of deciding these issues on “papers” are, at best, extremely difficult.
There are those who harbor a flawed assumption that judges (on papers), rather than medical scientists and jurors, are more able and equipped to discern and distinguish the false, frivolous and/or insignificant claims of serious injury from those which can cause legitimate, sometimes profound and “more than frivolous” limitations, pain and quality of life impairments. This legislatively imposed task has caused more than a season of judicial discontent and frustration, it has resulted in an extremely difficult and flawed process which results too often in an inconsistent and unfair application of the law.
This court is not sufficiently prescient to determine whether this plaintiff actually, as claimed, has ongoing significant cervical and lumbar pain, limitations and quality of life impairments. Certainly these kinds of injury and limitations can be feigned and/or exaggerated. When genuinely significant, however, cervical and lumbar injuries can be insidious and their syndrome is characterized by periods of remission and exacerbation which is not readily observable by others. Certainly if plaintiff’s injuries have continued to effect his relationship with his wife and preclude him from lifting anything heavy, playing soccer or volleyball, and assisting his wife with ordinary chores, such as grocery shopping, then, this court would certainly not conclude that the claim is frivolous or that the injuries are insignificant. But since the court cannot infallibly predict what the plaintiff’s future course may be, it must make its decision on this motion based upon the examples and standards (clues) promulgated by appellate authority to assist it in making its determination. This obligation, as discussed above, can be exceedingly difficult and frustrating.