On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-08914-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 12, 2008
Before Judges Parker and LeWinn.
Defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company (NJM) appeals from an order entered on March 14, 2008 ordering arbitration of plaintiff's uninsured motorist (UM) claim. We reverse and remand.
Plaintiff was insured by NJM under a policy with UM coverage. The policy provides for arbitration of the insured's entitlement to recover damages and the amount of damages. The policy, however, explicitly excludes arbitration for coverage disputes.
Here, plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to UM coverage under the policy because the tortfeasor -- the driver of the vehicle that struck his car -- was uninsured. The matter proceeded to arbitration, but plaintiff presented no evidence that the tortfeasor was uninsured. The only evidence presented by plaintiff was that the other vehicle had expired Georgia license plates. NJM maintained that its investigation indicated that the vehicle was insured at the time of the accident.
The policy defines an "uninsured motor vehicle" as a land motor vehicle or trailer of any type:
1. To which no liability bond or policy applies at the time of the accident.
2. Which, with respect to damages for bodily injury only, is a hit-and-run vehicle whose operator or owner cannot be identified and which hits, or causes an accident resulting in bodily injury without hitting:
a. You or any family member;
b. A vehicle which you or any family member are occupying; or
3. To which a liability bond or policy applies at the time of the accident but the ...