New Jersey Supreme Court Bars Wrongful Death Claims Filed by Survivors of Uninsured Motorists

 

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Appellate Court regarding the right of surviving heirs to file a wrongful death claim when the victim was an uninsured motorist. This ruling effectively prevents surviving heirs from receiving compensation for the loss of their loved one in this unique circumstance.

The case in question involved a car accident occurring in September 2005 which killed Lawrence Aronberg. He was rear ended by a tractor trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike. At the time of the car accident, Aronberg did not have car insurance. Under New Jersey state law, uninsured motorists are not entitled to recover damages in an accident caused by another driver. This law is intended to provide greater incentive for New Jersey residents to comply with the state’s mandatory no-fault insurance requirement.

In 2007, Aronberg’s mother filed both a survivorship and wrongful death claim against the trucking company and truck driver to recover damages for Aronberg’s pain and suffering prior to his death as well as for medical and funeral expenses incurred due to the accident. The survivorship claim was dismissed due to the law preventing uninsured motorists from filing a lawsuit to recover damages. However, the trial court ruled that this statute did not apply to the wrongful death claim since the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act gave heirs a right to recover damages even though the victim did not have valid insurance. The Appellate Court upheld this ruling.

However, the trucking company appealed this ruling to the state Supreme Court, where it was overturned. The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Aronberg’s mother did not have a right to file a wrongful death claim since her son was an uninsured motorist. The court claimed that the statute barring uninsured motorists from filing a lawsuit if they survive the car accident should be extended to wrongful death claims since if death had not occurred, the victim would hot have been entitled to recover damages from his injury.

This case sets an important precedent for future potential wrongful death claims filed by the heirs of uninsured motorists who die in a car accident. If you live in the state of New Jersey, it is crucial that you maintain valid auto insurance at all times. If you fail to do so, not only will you forfeit your right to receive compensation in the event of a car accident, but you will also prevent your loved ones from receiving the compensation they deserve if you do not survive the crash.