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NJ Law Review Update

Plaintiff, a Virginia resident, who was struck by a New Jersey licensed driver while crossing a street in Princeton, New Jersey was denied personal injury protection benefits pursuant to the Deemer Statute because she was not operating her vehicle at the time of accident.  

   Below is a summary of Leggette v. Government Employees Insurance Company, 2017 WL 2333059.

             Plaintiff appealed from the summary judgment dismissal of her declaratory judgment against defendant, her insurer. Plaintiff, a Virginia resident, sought personal injury protection benefits after being struck by a New Jersey-licensed driver while crossing the street in Princeton, New Jersey. Plaintiff argued that, pursuant to the Deemer Statute, her Virginia policy, was deemed to provide standard PIP coverage while her vehicle was in New Jersey as defendant was authorized to conduct business in New Jersey. Defendant argued that the Deemer Statute was not applicable as plaintiff was a pedestrian at the time of the accident and therefore was not using or operating her vehicle at the time of the accident.

              On reconsideration, the trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that a driver had to be operating the vehicle at the time of the accident to trigger Deemer coverage. On appeal, the court noted that the Deemer statute provided an out-of-state driver with New Jersey’s statutory no-fault PIP coverage in exchange for imposing the statutory limitation-on-lawsuit option. Plaintiff argued that precluding her from PIP benefits because she resided out of state would be contrary to the plain language of the Deemer Statute and she argued that it was irrelevant whether she was in her vehicle at the time of the accident. Defendant argued that a nexus between the out-of-state vehicle and the accident was necessary to trigger Deemer coverage. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to defendant, noting that the Deemer Statute required the insured vehicle to be used or operated in this state. Because plaintiff had turned off her car, locked the doors and walked away, her “use” of her vehicle had ended by the time she was struck while walking in the crosswalk, and therefore, the injuries sustained in the accident were not related to the use of her vehicle. The court ruled that the Deemer Statue required a “substantial”nexus” between the insured vehicle and accidents for which benefits were sought.

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