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)
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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.

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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.”

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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.

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