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Saturday, 03 March 2018 00:00

If you reside in New Jersey but register and insure your car out of state you may lose your right to make a claim for injuries in a New Jersey car accident.

Written by Jonathan Druckman

A recent case in New Jersey decided by Judge Bartels of the New Jersey Superior Court in Essex County decided that a resident who lives in N.J. but had his automobile insured and registered in the state of Florida was not allowed to sue a N.J. driver for injuries he suffered in a car accident.

The Judge dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the other driver in October of 2017. In reaching this decision, Judge Bartels’s concluded that under the facts of the case, to allow the injured party to make a claim was in violation of the New Jersey automobile insurance laws because the plaintiff had fraudulently maintained a Florida automobile insurance policy during the time he was actually living in N.J.

The accident occurred when the plaintiff was operating his car on Academy Street in South Orange, NJ. The lawsuit alleged that the Plaintiff was severely injured, when the car operated by the defendant struck him head on. According to the lawsuit, the injuries suffered by the plaintiff included injuries to his back that required invasive epidural injections and surgery.

In reaching this decision, Judge Bartels, noted that the Plaintiff lived in New Jersey and had been working in New Jersey since 2009 and that he also kept his car here. Apparently, because it was cheaper to insure his car in Florida, the Plaintiff registered and insured his car there and even had a driver’s license that had been issued by the State of Florida.

The Defendant in the lawsuit requested that the Court dismiss the suit based upon the argument that the N.J. law required that residents who live in New Jersey and own or lease a car here must maintain N.J. car insurance.

The Court agreed with these arguments, holding: “[W]e agree that plaintiff’s automobile is not considered insured pursuant to New Jersey law,” The Judge rejected the arguments of the Plaintiff’s lawyer that “technically” the plaintiff’s car had insurance and that New Jersey law was designed only to prevent injured drivers from suing if they had no insurance themselves.

“The defendant argues that this statute was specifically revised to prevent reverse rate evasion, which occurs when New Jersey residents or those who principally garage their car in New Jersey seek to obtain cheaper insurance from another state,” Bartels said.

The court found that this was exactly what the plaintiff admitted to doing in this case. In fact, during his deposition, the Plaintiff testified that the reason he did not obtain New Jersey car insurance was that it was too expensive.

The court reasoned that in this case to allow the Plaintiff to sue for his injuries would “undermine the purpose and policy” of the statutes, and “completely eviscerate” them, Bartels said.

It appears that the Plaintiff is pursuing an appeal from this decision.

Unfortunately, due to the high cost of car insurance in New Jersey, this type of scenario arises more often than most people would realize. If you live in New Jersey and principally garage your car here, you should make sure to insure your car in New Jersey.

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