Woman hit by car after parking her vehicle was not ‘using’ her vehicle

At the time she sustained her injuries, the appellate court ruled, “her use of her vehicle had ended.” (Photo: Shutterstock) This story is reprinted with permission from FC&&S Legal, the industry’s only comprehensive digital resource designed for insurance coverage law professionals. Visit the website to subscribe. A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that a woman struck by a car after parking her insured vehicle was not entitled to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits because her vehicle was not being “used or operated” at the time she was injured. Related: Location matters: Insurance award in auto case jumps from $75K to $2 million While in a crosswalk, struck by a car and injured Kathleen Leggette, a Virginia resident, said that she drove her Virginia-registered 2005 Toyota Sequoia, insured by Government Employees Insurance Company (Geico), from Virginia to Princeton University to visit her daughter, a student. Leggette said that she parked her vehicle in a Princeton University parking lot and began walking toward her daughter’s dormitory. While in a crosswalk on Edwards Place, Leggette said, she was struck by an automobile and injured. Leggette sued the driver of the auto, and subsequently settled her claims. She then initiated a declaratory judgment action against Geico for PIP benefits. Leggette alleged that Geico, which was authorized to conduct business in New Jersey, was legally obligated by New Jersey law to provide minimum standard automobile insurance policy PIP benefits, covering injuries suffered when her out-of-state-insured vehicle was used in New Jersey. PIP coverage not triggered Geico maintained that Leggette, as a pedestrian, was not using or operating her vehicle at the time of the accident, so coverage had not been triggered. The trial court concluded that Leggette was not entitled to PIP benefits because she had not been using or operating her vehicle at the time of the accident. She appealed. New Jersey law New Jersey law provides: Any insurer authorized to transact or transacting automobile or motor vehicle insurance business in this State … shall include in each policy coverage to satisfy at least the liability insurance requirements of … personal injury protection benefits coverage pursuant to … [N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4] … whenever the automobile or motor vehicle insured under the policy is used or operated in this State. N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.4. Appellate Court’s decision The appellate court affirmed. In its decision, the appellate court ruled that Leggette was not entitled to recover PIP benefits because she had been injured “while a pedestrian.” Related: Road rash: Why personal auto is a bit of a wreck The appellate court noted that Leggette had parked her car, locked the doors, walked away, exited the parking lot, and was crossing a street when she was struck by a vehicle. At the time she sustained her injuries, the appellate court ruled, “her use of her vehicle had ended.” Negligient act not related to use of vehicle The pedestrian accident, the appellate court declared, was “not a consequence of [Ms. Leggette’s] use of her automobile.” Simply put, the appellate court concluded, the allegedly negligent act that caused Ms. Leggette’s injury “was not related to the use of her vehicle in New Jersey” and she was not entitled to PIP benefits. The case is Leggette v. Government Employees Ins. Co., No. A-1911-15T3 (N.J. Ct.App. May 30, 2017). Steven A. Meyerowitz, Esq., is the director of FC&S Legal, the editor-in-chief of the Insurance Coverage Law Report, and the founder and president of Meyerowitz Communications Inc. Email him at smeyerowitz@meyerowitzcommunications.com.

About John Fagan

John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981. John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder. In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home. John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation. Professional Activities John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates. Service to the Community John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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