If you are divorced, separated or involved in divorce proceedings you must be aware of a recent New Jersey Appellate Court decision. As part of their divorce agreement the ex-husband was responsible for maintaining the ex-wife’s vehicle until the registration was transferred into her name. As part of that agreement he was to pay for insurance on the vehicle. Unbeknownst to her the insurance lapsed. She was driving this vehicle registered to her ex-husband when she was injured in an accident. Her attorney argued that she was not “culpably uninsured” since she was not the registered owner of the vehicle and therefore not responsible for insuring it, she should not be barred from bringing claims for her economic and non-economic losses.
The appellate court affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of her claims. The judges found that even though the title to the car had not been transferred to her, she was the beneficial owner of the vehicle and therefore she was responsible for making sure the vehicle was properly insured. Since she failed to do that, and the vehicle was not insured, she had no medical bill coverage and was barred from bringing any claim to recover lost wages and compensation for her injuries.
Our family law attorneys tell me that this scenario is very common: One person is responsible to maintain insurance coverage on a vehicle, home, boat and often life insurance for the benefit of an ex-spouse. It is therefore critical that anyone faced with a situation where he or she is relying on another person to provide insurance coverage confirm and monitor that valid insurance is in place. The consequences are significant and long lasting.