Auto Insurance: Rita Starner v. Scott Haemmerle, et al.

A New Jersey appellate court recently ruled that an insurer does not have to cover injuries caused by an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) crash, finding that an ATV is a recreational vehicle, and not a “four-wheel passenger auto,” as covered by the victim’s parents auto insurance policy.

Prior to being taken up on appeal, the trial court granted the victim’s motion for summary judgment, finding that an ATV should be considered a “passenger automobile,” and thus should be afforded under the parents’ GEICO insurance policy. However, a two-judge panel reversed the lower court ruling, distinguishing between an ATV and private passenger automobile, stating that an ATV should not be considered an “automobile” or a “passenger automobile” merely because it has four wheels and maintains the ability to carry passengers. In making a determination, the panel drew a connection between ATV’s and dune buggies as recreational vehicles, and relied on a 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling which held that dune buggies are not “automobiles” under the state’s laws.