More than one million New Jersey drivers could see their insurance premiums rise after legislation to reform the industry was passed by the state legislature on Wednesday.
The bill would increase the minimum amount of liability insurance in the Garden State from its current coverage of $15,000 to $25,000 starting in 2023 and to a minimum of $35,000 starting in 2026.
Industry officials said about 1.1 million drivers would pay about $125 more each year if Governor Phil Murphy signs it into law.
The measure passed in the state Senate 25 to 13 without any discussion and 44 to 29 in the House after meeting a mild backlash when two Republican lawmakers voted against it. They cleared the two chambers largely along party lines.
A group that represents insurers, the Insurance Council of New Jersey, agreed to increase minimum coverage to $25,000 but opposed the bill because of the automatic increase in 2026. The average cost of a personal injury claim is $18,000, according to the group.
Other groups opposed the bill, citing its timing. They argued that lawmakers should not raise the cost of driving in the state when inflation is high and the cost of living is rising.
“We’ve got $5 a gallon gas and now we’re going to force New Jersey motorists to shell out more money?” Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Bergen, asked before the measure was passed by the Assembly.
“This is a very, very bad bill,” Auth added. “Let’s give poor, middle and working class families in New Jersey a break to cry out loud. Give them a fucking break.
Auth accused the pilots of the legislation of being a “small group of lawyers”.
The main sponsors of the bill in the Assembly and the Senate are all lawyers.
“Why this urgency? John Harmon, president and CEO of the New Jersey African American Chamber of Commerce, asked during an interview with NJ Advance Media on Tuesday. “Couldn’t we take that out and do impact studies?
Harmon argued that black and brown New Jersey residents would be disproportionately impacted by the bill and said he was surprised he didn’t hear from the bill’s sponsors before the measure went to trial. Legislature for a vote.
“We’re definitely open to compromise, but we haven’t had the opportunity to have that conversation,” Harmon said. “Why is this so important to him compared to all the other things going on?”
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The legislation is a streamlined reform bill that State Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, originally hoped to pass.
Scutari has sponsored more than half a dozen bills that opponents say would force 1.27 million drivers to pay up to $350 more a year.
Its initial measures would have required drivers to select plans with a minimum of $250,000 in injury protection, commonly referred to as PIP. Another bill would prohibit motorists from using private health insurance as the primary payer for injury protection coverage in exchange for a car insurance discount.
They were all passed by a Senate committee last week, but were apparently scrapped in the face of backlash.
Scutari staunchly defended the bill during a Senate committee vote on Monday, saying taxpayers should bear the costs of “subsidizing unpaid medical bills” and “everything the healthcare industry insurance does not cover”. the minimum policy.
“New Jerseyans need this legislature to protect them from themselves because we tell them what they need to get, and that’s what they get,” Scutari said.
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