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05/27/2014

New Jersey Judge Tosses Out ‘Rate-Evader’ In Auto Negligence Matter

Cipriani & Werner’s partner, Matthew K. Mitchell, and associate, John N. Kaelin, III, successfully obtained summary judgment from a Passaic County judge against a plaintiff whose vehicle was principally garaged in New Jersey, but was insured on an out-of-state policy at the time of a 2012 motor vehicle accident. In reaching its ruling, the court relied on N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5 and determined that plaintiff was culpably uninsured and prohibited from bringing an action.

N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5 was amended in 1997 by the New Jersey Legislature to specifically prevent those who operated a vehicle without insurance from filing lawsuits for both economic and non-economic damages in New Jersey. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5 provides that any person who, at the time of an automobile accident resulting in injuries to that person, is required, but fails to maintain New Jersey’s medical expense benefits coverage, shall not be permitted to have a cause of action for recovery of economic and non-economic injuries sustained as a result of an accident while operating an uninsured vehicle.

In granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, a Passaic County judge found plaintiff had resided in New Jersey for approximately nine years before the 2012 accident during which her vehicle that was involved in the accident was garaged at her New Jersey residency. However, at the time of the accident, plaintiff’s vehicle was insured with a policy from another state and, more importantly, one that was not approved by New Jersey’s Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI). Pursuant New Jersey’s No-Fault law, every owner of an automobile that is principally garaged in New Jersey must obtain automobile liability coverage and medical expense benefits in the amounts that are approved by DOBI.  (N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3, -3.1 & -4). The judge dismissed plaintiff’s case, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5, after determining that plaintiff failed to maintain New Jersey’s minimum auto insurance coverage on the vehicle that plaintiff was operating at the time of the 2012 accident as that vehicle was principally garaged in New Jersey. The judge concluded that, as a result of plaintiff’s failure to maintain New Jersey’s insurance coverage, plaintiff was culpably uninsured and was barred from bringing the action, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5.

Cipriani & Werner has an aggressive team of auto negligence defense and coverage attorneys. For more information, please contact Matthew K. Mitchell at mmitchell@c-wlaw.com or John N. Kaelin, III at jkaelin@c-wlaw.com.