May 31, 2007
KELLY N. SNEAD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
RAY W. TIPTON AND TRANSAXLE CORP., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, Docket No. L-102-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted May 9, 2007
Before Judges Lefelt and Sapp-Peterson.
Plaintiff Kelly Snead, while driving a vehicle owned by her, collided with a truck driven by defendant Ray Tipton and owned by defendant Transaxle Corporation. Plaintiff sued, and defendants moved for summary judgment claiming plaintiff's suit was barred under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a) because she did not have personal injury protection coverage (PIP) on her vehicle. Plaintiff argued that because she was in the course of her employment at the time of the accident, her employer's insurance policy, which covered her vehicle, should suffice to permit the lawsuit. Judge Bowen disagreed and granted summary judgment to defendants. Plaintiff appealed.
The relevant statute, N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), in pertinent part states that "[a]ny person who, at the time of the accident . . . is required but fails to maintain medical expense benefits 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." As the registered owner of her vehicle, plaintiff was required to maintain PIP coverage. N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3; N.J.S.A. 39:6A-3.2; N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4. Medical expense benefits, referenced in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5, are one component of PIP benefits. N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.
Here, plaintiff's personal automobile insurance policy lapsed due to non-payment of the premium. The only insurance coverage plaintiff had at the time of the accident was through her employer's policy and the Workers' Compensation Act. Her employer's automobile insurance policy covered her only for "Excess Liability." As Judge Bowen correctly found, "she didn't have PIP coverage, whether in this particular case she needed it or not." Under N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5 plaintiff was "uninsured," and the trial judge correctly barred her cause of action for personal injuries.
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