No PIP For You (NJ)
In Washington v. Progressive, the New Jersey Superior Court was asked to determine if the plaintiff, Jacquelyn Washington, was entitled to damages for personal injuries and UIM coverage following a January 2015 a motor vehicle accident on the Garden State Parkway. Following the accident, the plaintiff had applied for medical expense benefits under her Pennsylvania Progressive Insurance policy. She also filed suit against the defendant driver seeking damages for personal injuries.
For purposes of background, Washington was living in New Jersey for about two years, but was driving a car owned by her brother that was registered and insured in Pennsylvania, which carried $5,000 in medical benefit coverage. She used the SUV frequently as her main means of transportation. Most importantly, she kept the car parked at her New Jersey apartment.
After suit was filed, defendant moved for summary judgement asserting that plaintiff’s claim was barred because she had not procured the requisite amount of New Jersey PIP coverage, a minimum of $15,000. The judge agreed. The judge indicated that the plaintiff was barred from recovering damages under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), which stated that a person who failed to maintain the requisite coverage shall have no cause of action for recovery of economic or non-economic loss sustained as a result of an accident while operating an uninsured automobile. His reasoning was simple. The car was “principally garaged” in New Jersey and therefore plaintiff had to maintain New Jersey automobile liability insurance coverage, including the mandatory $15,000 PIP coverage. As noted above, the plaintiff only had $5,000 in medical coverage.
Every automobile operator that has his or her car “principally garaged” in New Jersey, meaning it is chiefly kept in New Jersey, must have the requisite insurance coverage. Here, the plaintiff kept her car at her apartment in New Jersey and did not have proper coverage and, thus was barred from recovery as a result. Thus, this case reveals the importance of determining the applicable statutory requirements when analyzing a motor vehicle accident potentially involving multiple states.
Thank you to Marc Schauer for his contribution to this post. Please email Colleen E. Hayes with any questions.