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Senate Committee Advances Much Needed Consumer Rights and Protections

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Trenton – The Senate Commerce Committee today approved a package of nine insurance reform bills, sponsored by Senate President Nick Scutari, that would provide consumer rights and protections needed by New Jersey motorists.


“These are common-sense reforms to protect consumers from the insurance companies,” said Senator Scutari. “New Jersey continues to have the lowest minimum coverage limits in the country and they haven’t been increased in 50 years. We are long overdue for reforms.”


The bills would improve protections for victims of drunk drivers, increase coverage for medical expenses, and boost the minimum liability coverage for commercial vehicles and for accidents caused by the uninsured and underinsured.


“We need stronger consumer safeguards so policy holders aren’t denied the rights and compensation they deserve,” said Senator Scutari. “Accident victims are now under-protected and the taxpayers are left to foot the bill. These reforms will help consumers and taxpayers.”


The bills would also empower consumers by requiring insurance companies to provide them with more information about the costs and benefits of their policies.


The bills approved by the committee:


  • S467 – Provides that limitation on lawsuit option does not apply in accidents caused by drunk or reckless drivers. This protection will allow people who have been struck by a drunk or reckless driver to immediately invoke the verbal threshold. This would allow for full tort access to a policy holder.


  • S471 – Eliminates certain personal injury protection options available under standard automobile insurance policies; requires $250,000 of medical expense benefits. Because medical bills take up a large percentage of any award, this ensures that accident victims would be able to get a full award.


  • S479 – Eliminates New Jersey Automobile Insurance Risk Exchange. NJAIRE mandates insurance companies use a system of burden sharing, which could harm consumers by giving insurance companies an inside track to devalue accidents.


  • S480 – Requires consultation with insurance company or the provision of cost benefit analysis prior to sale of automobile insurance policy. A consumer protection that would allow consumers to make a more educated choice.


  • S481- Requires automobile insurance policies to provide minimum amounts of coverage for liability, uninsured motorists, and underinsured motorists. The average motorist loses money for having the minimum amount of auto insurance. A $50,000 insurance minimum means consumers are taken care of in a time of need.


  • S2031 & S2254 – Establishes a process to bar certain health care providers from receiving reimbursement under PIP. Prohibits selection of health insurance coverage as primary under personal injury protection. Under current law, a motorist who chooses their health insurance as their primary insurance results in many bills going unpaid. This legislation protects consumers by dedicating an infrastructure to pay medical bills.


  • S2841 – Raises minimum amount of liability coverage for commercial motor vehicles to $1,500,000. This would ensure that businesses are protecting their employees from liability as well as protecting motorists.


  • S2843 – Requires certain insurers to disclose policy limits upon request by an attorney under certain circumstances. This disclosure requirement will allow attorneys to advise clients through a course of action.