Court Excuses Barred Claim When Insured Lulled Into Inaction By Insurer (NJ)

In Raviv v. Farmer’s Insurance Group (erroneously named rather than the appropriate insurer, 21st Century Insurance Company), plaintiff Raviv was injured in December 2009 in a motor vehicle accident while operating a vehicle owned by her friend that was insured by GEICO.  Raviv promptly notified GEICO of her claim and affirmed that she had no other source of insurance.  GEICO dutifully issued Personal Injury Protection benefits for Raviv’s ongoing medical treatment.

Raviv lived with her sister at the time of the accident, and less than two years following the accident, it was discovered that Raviv’s sister carried an automobile policy through 21st Century Insurance Company at the time of Raviv’s accident.  21st Century was notified of Raviv’s claim in November 2011.

After discussions between Raviv’s attorney and counsel for the two carriers, 21st Century issued a reservation of rights letter preserving its right to a full investigation of the claim.  Shortly thereafter, GEICO discontinued coverage on the theory that 21st Century was required to extend benefits to Raviv where she was the resident relative of its insured, Raviv’s sister, at the time of the subject accident.  Two months later, in February 2012, 21st Century advised Raviv that the statute of limitations on her PIP claim had tolled in December 2011.

In upholding the trial court’s decision denying dismissal of Raviv’s complaint based upon the statute of limitations, the Appellate Decision held that 21st Century “lulled” Raviv into believing that PIP coverage would be afforded to her based upon negotiations between all three parties, as well as 21st Century’s demand for certain claim related information from Raviv after the statute had run.  The court further found that Raviv was not to blame in the delay to identify the appropriate carrier and that 21st Century should not be excused from its failure to properly investigate Raviv’s status as a resident relative entitled to coverage prior to the tolling of the statute of limitations.

 Thanks to Emily Kidder for her contribution to this post.  If you would like more information, please write to Mike Bono.