For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz, and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Clifford, J.
We granted certification, 113 N.J. 357 (1988), to review the Appellate Division's affirmance of a judgment awarding plaintiff personal-injury-protection (P.I.P.) benefits and counsel fees in this "no-contact" accident involving an automobile and a pedestrian. The statutory provision at issue grants P.I.P. benefits to pedestrians (other than the named insured and resident members of his or her family) who "sustain[ ] bodily injury caused by the named insured's automobile or struck by an object propelled by or from such automobile." N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4. We conclude that plaintiff's proofs satisfied those statutory conditions and that she is therefore entitled to P.I.P. benefits under the named insured's policy. We likewise affirm the award of counsel fees.
On November 9, 1983, plaintiff rode a bicycle off the sidewalk onto the road and into the path of an oncoming automobile insured by defendant-appellant, Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association Insurance Company (PMI). Plaintiff swerved abruptly, as did the driver of the car. As a result of this maneuvering plaintiff fell and sustained personal injuries, for which she brought suit against the PMI-insured-automobile owner and driver, claiming negligent operation. In that same suit plaintiff sought P.I.P. benefits from PMI.
The trial court permitted the personal-injury claim to go to the jury, ruling that the P.I.P. claim would be decided by the court on the basis of the facts as determined by the jury. To a
specific interrogatory that asked if the PMI-insured driver was negligent, the jurors responded unanimously in the negative. Thereafter, in considering the P.I.P. claim, the trial court made findings consistent with but going beyond the jury's determination, namely, that not only was the operator of the automobile not negligent but plaintiff herself was negligent and, contrary to plaintiff's assertion at trial, there was no contact between the automobile and the bicycle. The trial court nevertheless found that plaintiff's injuries were "caused by" the automobile, wherefore it awarded plaintiff P.I.P. benefits and counsel fees.
To achieve that result the trial court had to focus on plaintiff's status in the context of the controlling statute, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4. Plaintiff, as operator of a bicycle, was within the definition of a "pedestrian" in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-2(h), a section of the New Jersey Automobile Reparation Reform Act, sometimes known as the No-Fault Act. Before it was amended on October 4, 1983, that Act, in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4, provided P.I.P. benefits
without regard to negligence, liability or fault of any kind, to the named insured and members of his family residing in his household who sustained bodily injury as a result of an accident involving an automobile, to other persons sustaining bodily injury while occupying the automobile of the named insured or while using such automobile with the permission of the named insured and to pedestrians, sustaining bodily injury caused by the named insured's automobile or struck by an object propelled by or from such automobile.
The protection then, extended to three classes of people:
(1) named insureds and members of their family are covered for bodily injury arising from an accident involving an automobile; (2) "other persons" are given protection for bodily injury sustained "while occupying the automobile of the named insured or while using [it] with [the named insured's] permission"; and (3) "pedestrians" are covered for injuries caused by the automobile or when struck by an object propelled by it.
As can be seen, the Act contemplated two classes of pedestrians. The first included the named insured or a familial member of the named insured's household who sustains an injury "as a result of an accident involving an automobile," N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4, ...