New Jersey lawmakers may take a second look at raising some car insurance coverage minimums after most bills in a reform package championed by Senate President Nicholas Scutari failed to advance this summer.
Sen. Joe Lagana (D-Bergen) on Monday introduced a bill that would require auto insurance policies to include at least $50,000 in personal injury protection coverage, up from the $15,000 mandated under existing law.
Lagana said the aim is to protect people injured in automobile accidents who can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Scutari has previously said New Jersey’s current requirements are so low they force taxpayers to subsidize victims’ unpaid medical bills.
“I’ve seen people spend two months at a chiropractor, get an MRI and maybe an epidural injection for a herniated disk and blow through $15,000. I’ve seen people not make it out of the hospital without blowing $15,000,” Lagana, an attorney, said in an interview. “The amount of premium a person is paying — which isn’t low — for really subpar medical coverage is not really appropriate, I think.
The bill’s introduction comes after the Legislature approved and Gov. Phil Murphy in August signed a separate bill, sponsored by Scutari, that sets new floors for bodily injury liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Those changes will require auto policies to offer at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage — which is meant to pay for injuries others suffer as a result of an accident caused by the policyholder — by 2023 and $35,000 by 2026. Industry officials have said this will add about $125 to New Jerseyans’ auto insurance premiums.
Personal injury protection pays for injuries sustained by the policyholder. One of the bills in Scutari’s package that did not win approval from the Legislature would have raised those minimums to $250,000.