PIP May Be Recovered In New Jersey from Any Vehicle Not Required to Carry PIP, Even If The Tortfeasor Carried PIP Coverage.
Legal Victory for Law Offices of Jan Meyer and Associates, P.C.
In Drive N.J. Ins. Co. v. Gisis, 420 N.J. Super. 295 (App. Div.) certif. denied, 208 N.J. 599 (2011), the New Jersey Appellate Division confirmed that the plain meaning of N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1 applies, and that any tortfeasor not required to carry PIP is subject to PIP recovery, even if that tortfeasor voluntarily carries PIP. The published opinion sets precedent that applies to any accident occurring in New Jersey.
In Drive N.J., successfully argued by Noah Gradofsky of Law Offices of Jan Meyer and Associates, P.C., Drive’s insureds were injured in an accident with a school bus.11 Drive paid PIP benefits and sought to recover those benefits from the school bus’s insurer, per N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1, which permits recovery from any tortfeasor “not . . . required to maintain [PIP].” It is clear that New Jersey’s statutes do not require school buses to carry PIP. The school bus’s insurer argued that it was exempt from PIP recovery because its insured voluntarily carried PIP coverage on the school bus. The Appellate Division disagreed, finding that the plain meaning of the statute permitted recovery.
The Appellate Division distinguished the Drive N.J. case from Coach U.S.A., Inc. v. Allstate N.J. Ins. Col., 354 N.J. Super. 277 (App. Div), certif. denied, 175 N.J. 170 (2002). In Coach U.S.A. the Appellate Division had found certain buses to be exempt from PIP recovery. However, these buses met the definition of “motor bus” and therefore were required to carry bus-PIP under the New Jersey statutes, whereas the school bus was not required to carry PIP. Drive N.J. 420 N.J. Super. at 299-300.
The Appellate Division also rejected the school bus insurer’s argument that "the statute was never intended to permit PIP carriers to pursue reimbursement of PIP payments from other PIP carriers,” saying that this was contrary to the plain meaning of the statute which authorized recovery from any tortfeasor not required to carry PIP. Id. at 300.
In another opinion released on the same day, the Appellate Division found that a policy providing PIP coverage on certain vehicles in a fleet did not protect the tortfeasor from recovery of PIP when a non-PIP covered vehicle is involved in an accident. In Government Employees Insurance Company v. Community Options, Inc., 420 N.J. Super. 546 (App. Div.) certif. denied, 208 N.J. 370 (2011), the tortfeasor, a commercial entity, owned a fleet of vehicles. Those “automobiles” in the fleet, which required PIP, did carry PIP, while those vehicles not requiring PIP, did not carry PIP. The tortfeasor’s vehicle involved in the accident did not carry PIP. However, the torfeasor’s insurer argued that it was not subject to PIP recovery, since as a whole, their insured was not a tortfeasor “not . . . required to maintain [PIP],” because certain vehicles owned by the insured did, in fact, require PIP. The Appellate Division disagreed with this argument, and affirmed the Law Division’s conclusion, holding that the protection from PIP recovery found in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1 applies only when the particular vehicle involved in the accident requires PIP.
This decision is consistent with prior Appellate Division precedent in Empire Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. GSA Ins. Co., 354 N.J. Super. 415 (App. Div. 2002) where the commercial tortfeasor had a PIP policy which applied PIP to any vehicle which required PIP under New Jersey law. The tortfeasor’s vehicle involved in the accident was not required to carry PIP under New Jersey law. The court in Empire found that the tortfeasor’s insurer was subject to PIP recovery, citing among other reasons the fact that the particular vehicle involved in the accident was not in fact covered by PIP. Id. at 420.
In sum, the Drive N.J. and GEICO v. Community Options cases demonstrate that a vehicle involved in an accident will only be exempt from PIP recovery if that particular vehicle is required to carry PIP. Of course, if a vehicle required to carry PIP fails to do so, it will be subject to PIP recovery as well.
Please visit our Guide to Recovery of PIP in New Jersey for the text of the key New Jersey statutes regarding PIP recovery, together with an outline of those statutes, hyperlinks to definitions of key terms, discussions of key provisions of each statute, relevant case law, and other selected issues of New Jersey subrogation.
Please note that the information included herein is solely the product of Law Offices of Jan Meyer and Associates, P.C and does not not constitute legal advice. For legal advice kindly contact our office.
11 The court’s opinion incorrectly states that Drive’s insureds were passengers of the school bus, when in fact they were passengers of Drive’s insured’s vehicle. In fairness to the court, this fact was not clear on the record and does not affect the substance of the court’s decision.