New Jersey’s Statutory Bar against Uninsured Motorist Lawsuits Also Applicable to Heirs’ Claims under the Wrongful Death Act

New Jersey’s Statutory Bar against Uninsured Motorist Lawsuits Also Applicable to Heirs’ Claims under the Wrongful Death Act

Lawrence Aronberg was driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike when a tractor trailer careened into the rear of his car, killing him. On the day of the fatal accident, Aronberg, then thirty-four years old, was an uninsured motorist.

Aronberg's mother filed a survivorship and wrongful death action against the tractor trailer's owner/operator. The survivorship claim demanded damages for Aronberg's pain and suffering and payment of his medical and funeral expenses. The wrongful death claim demanded damages for the loss of Aronberg's services, society, comfort, guidance and support.

Aronberg v. Tolbert, 207 N.J. 587 (N.J. 2011) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers / unenhanced version available from lexisONE Free Case Law] involved the interplay between N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), which bars a lawsuit for personal injuries by an uninsured motorist, and N.J.S.A. 2A:31-1 to -6, the Wrongful Death Act. The court addressed the following questions: Do the heirs of an uninsured motorist killed in an automobile accident have a rightful claim under the Wrongful Death Act; or Does N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a) extinguish that claim, just as it does the survival action?

The court held that when an uninsured motorist's cause of action is barred by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), an heir has no right of recovery under the Wrongful Death Act. Specifically, the court stated:

... Under the plain language of the Act, the mother in this case can recover in her lawsuit only if her son would have been "entitled . . . to maintain an action for damages resulting from the injury" had "death . . . not ensued." Because her son, an uninsured motorist, could not have maintained a cause of action had he lived due to the statutory bar in N.J.S.A. 39:6A-4.5(a), his heirs cannot recover under the Wrongful Death Act.

(citations omitted)

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Comments

Anonymous
Anonymous
  • 01-03-2012

very informative blog..