A 15 passenger van is not an automobile… for PIP in NJ

It is widely understood that New Jersey automobile liability insurance policies must provide PIP benefits for bodily injury resulting from accidents during the operation of an automobile. But where is the line between an “automobile” as defined with respect to PIP provisions and other types of vehicles?

In Perez v. Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Salem, the New Jersey Appellate Division denied PIP benefits to injured passengers of a church owned van because a fifteen passenger van was not an automobile within the contemplation of the statute.

The PIP statute distinguishes between those vehicles more commonly identified as private passenger vehicles and other types of vehicles sometimes used privately but more often used commercially. In the first category, private passenger automobiles and station wagons are considered automobiles – even if owned by a commercial entity with the exception of livery services. Minivans fall within this category because of their ready comparison to station wagons. Thus, companies providing such private passenger vehicles to employees are required to carry PIP coverage for the vehicles.

On the other hand, vehicles such as vans, pickups, campers, or panel trucks will fall within the PIP automobile definition only if they are privately owned and not customarily used in a business (other than farming or ranching). Accordingly, the fifteen passenger van owned by a church is not an “automobile” as defined for PIP purposes.

See Perez v. Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Salem, http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a0490-09.pdf

For more information, please contact Denise Ricci at dricci@wcmlaw.com.