Driver in Single Car Accident Always “at Fault” – Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance

In order to purchase automobile insurance in the voluntary market in New Jersey, one must be an “eligible person.” N.J.A.C. 11:3-34.4 sets forth the definition of an eligible person. One of the events that will transform an eligible person into an ineligible person is the accumulation within a three-year period of seven or more insurance eligibility points. Insurance eligibility points are assigned by the insurance companies in much the same manner as MVC penalty points for moving violations. In addition, insurance eligibility points can also be assessed for other events, such as being involved in an “at fault” accident, which, when coupled with damages of $1000 or more, will result in the assessment of five insurance points. (See generally NJAC 11:3-34(a)(8)) As can be seen from the foregoing, an “at fault” accident, coupled with a two-point careless driving ticket will result in the assessment of seven points and the loss of the ability to purchase insurance in the voluntary market.

In today’s Appellate Division decision, Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance, the plaintiff challenged the assessment of five insurance points against him by his insurance company as a result of a single car accident. The plaintiff claimed that although he was involved in the accident, its occurrence was due to bad weather and not any negligent driving on his part. However, in ruling in favor of the Commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance, the Court held that traditional notions of negligence are not the standard by which to judge fault in a single-car accident attributable to weather. Rather, fault in a single-car accident is based upon insurance cost and risk. In essence, a single-car accident attributable to weather will always result in an assessment of fault for the insured driver.

Download a copy of Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive