As a New Jersey-insured driver, if you are involved in a one-car accident, chances are your insurance company will find you “at-fault” and, if the accident results in payment by the insurer of at least a $1,000 claim, the insurance company will assess up to five points against your insurability.
These points are eligibility points, issued by insurance companies to rate your risk level, NOT to be confused with penalty points issued by the NJ Motor Vehicle Agency for incidents involving moving violations. In New Jersey, a person purchasing auto insurance is considered “eligible” if he or she has not, over a three-year period, accrued in excess of 7 (seven) eligibility points. If a person accumulates seven or more eligibility points within a three-year period, an insurance company can decline to renew a person’s automobile insurance, deeming that person “ineligible”. In addition, this person would find him or herself paying a greatly increased premium for replacement insurance.
Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance is a case in which the plaintiff was assessed five eligibility/insurance points by his insurance company when he was involved in a one-car accident. Seeing as the accident was a result of bad weather and icy roads, the plaintiff contends he was not driving recklessly (he was not issued a moving violation or ticketed) and, therefore, was not at fault. A decision was handed down by the Commissioner of The Department of Banking and Insurance stating that the driver was at-fault and the eligibility/insurance points were fairly assessed. The plaintiff appealed this decision. On February 16, 2007 in an Appellate Division decision of Reilly v. AAA Mid-Atlantic Insurance, the Court ruled in favor of the original decision handed down by the Department of Banking and Insurance, further asserting that the driver involved in this one-car accident was at-fault.
The Commissioner made the point, however, that the term “at-fault” has less to do with negligent or irresponsible driving, and more so with insurance companies recognizing their risk. In conclusion, it is likely that nearly all single-car accidents in New Jersey caused by poor weather/road conditions will result in the driver being “at-fault”.