Can the uninsured operator of an uninsured auto recover personal injury protection (PIP) benefits from the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund (UCJ) after being negligently struck by an insured driver? The issue is raised here on cross-motions for summary judgment based upon stipulated facts. The answer is "No."
Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident while operating a car with the permission of its owner. Neither plaintiff operator nor the owner carried insurance which provided PIP coverage for plaintiff. The other vehicle (Perkins) was insured with a standard liability-PIP policy, but its PIP coverage did not extend to plaintiff.
Plaintiff settled her claim against Perkins for $4,000. The parties here stipulated that Perkins alone was responsible for the accident and that the settlement did not include payment for plaintiff's medical expenses which she now seeks to recover from defendant UCJ under N.J.S.A. 39:6-61 et seq.
Our Supreme Court has noted:
The primary object of the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund law is to provide a measure of relief for persons who sustain losses or injury inflicted by financially irresponsible or unidentified owners or operators of motor vehicles, where such persons would otherwise be remediless. Dixon v. Gassert, 26 N.J. 1 (1958); [ Corrigan v. Gassert, 27 N.J. 227, 233 (1958)]
To effectuate this objective a person who files a claim against the UCJ usually must obtain a judgment against the operator of the other vehicle. See N.J.S.A. 39:6-69. A hearing is subsequently held pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:6-70 in which the applicant must demonstrate, among other things, that "[t]he judgment debtor at the time of the accident was not insured under a policy of automobile liability insurance under the terms of which the insurer is liable to pay in whole or in part the amount of the judgment." N.J.S.A. 39:6-70(f).
Thus, at least prior to 1972, plaintiff could not obtain any money from the UCJ because the responsible driver is insured. She argues, however, that the adoption of the no-fault system has changed the prior statutory scheme.
In 1972 the Legislature enacted a no-fault system of insurance. See N.J.S.A. 39:6A-1 et seq. The purpose of this new law was:
1. The prompt and efficient provision of benefits for all accident injury victims (the reparation objective)
2. The reduction or stabilization of prices charged for automobile insurance (the cost objective)
3. The ready availability of insurance coverage necessary to the provision of accident benefits ...