Two state senators — both personal injury attorneys — are pushing bills that would raise auto insurance requirements for motorists and could lead to higher premiums for drivers.

Senate President Nicholas ScutariD-Agreementand Sen. Jon BramnickR-Agreement, saying that the change would help motorists. But insurance experts – and their colleagues in the Legislature – say the two should benefit from insurance if Gov. Phil Murphy they sign their laws into law.

Bramnick, who also does stand-up comedy, and Scutari, the strongest candidate behind Murphy, wasted little time in bringing the legislation forward. It’s Bramnick’s first term as a senator after years in the Assembly. And it is the first part of Scutari like Senate the president.

Bramnick said the legislation is happening because “you have someone leading the way Senate now that represents individuals and not insurance companies.”

Both have dismissed questions about whether their laws violate the government’s policy on conflicts of interest. Office of Legislative Serviceswhich includes an ethics consultant to advise members of Parliament, declined to comment.

“I never asked for a ‘legal opinion’ because I know it’s an unfair question, and I think if you raise it you’re saying things that are 100% not true,” said Bramnick.

Scutari said raising questions about ethics was “absurd” and said that since he has been in Parliament for two decades he knows the rules and cannot break them.

But even his friends are not sure.

Members of the assembly Robert Auth and Beth Sawyer spoke out against the law before the vote last month. Auth said he would understand if “there is a real need for this” but that the bill, once signed, “will be mandatory.” New Jersey motorists to get more insurance premiums.”

“We’re just trying to find the little piece of legislation that’s behind it New Jersey drivers,” said Auth, R-Bergen. “It’s the middle- and lower-income people in New Jersey who are trying to make ends meet who have to fight this battle.”

Similarly, Sawyer asked people to vote against the bill, which Gloucester County Republicans said it would “just help the lawyers get rich.”

Douglas Helleran insurance professional is Consumer Federation of AmericaHe said this would confuse consumers while benefiting lawyers who are bringing in more money.

“Lawyers who bring complaints, will be better off because they have a big pot of money to buy and pay their fees, but consumers who are financially vulnerable are the ones being attacked by this law,” he said.

Bruce NagelA lawyer who is known for dealing with traffic accidents, traffic accidents and class action cases, said the law will help the injured and the lawyers who represent them.

In New Jerseylawyers usually pay 33.3%, or one-third, to the first $750,000 of an insurance claim or judgment, and then a lower percentage after that, according to Nagel.

“If the recovery is high, by definition the attorney fees are going to be high because that’s part of the recovery,” Nagel said.

Code of Ethics for policymakers

Public officials must avoid conduct that violates the public trust or gives a “reasonable impression” that the trust has been breached, according to a 1972 federal law.

Among those principles are laws that require lawmakers to vote for themselves, or their relatives. They must not “participate in voting or doing anything else, under s General Assembly or Senateor in committee or elsewhere, in the enactment or defeat of laws in which he is interested.”

In this case “personal interest” is if the counsel or members of their family will gain money or lose money as a result of the law – but only if the judge can be affected more than other people in the business, profession or the same group. to the law.

Although Scutari didn’t explain why it was “ridiculous” to ask if his support for the bill would violate the law, Bramnick said lawmakers all have different jobs and “as long as it’s not about me, which it’s not, and usually it’s about the company,” it doesn’t violate conflict-of-interest laws. .

Insurance reform has been important for two decades, Bramnick said, but the bill was first introduced last year. Bramnick was not a sponsor of the bill but was a major sponsor of the proposal sent to Murphy as it passed both chambers. June 29.

“I couldn’t be more proud of myself either Senate “The president is willing to take the heat to protect policyholders and not work for the insurance companies,” Bramnick said.

Two premium extensions that you want

State law requires all drivers to have auto insurance. The type and spread of accidents vary, but a regular pattern applies $15,000 for causing bodily harm to a person; $5,000 damage to property; and $30,000 for uninsured motorists.

The bill would require auto insurance to increase in January and then again in 2026. The changes would more than double what is required to create a permanent policy from $15,000 now to $35,000 in 2026.

A minimum policy will require the car owner to take care of it $25,000 because of an accident that results in the injury or death of one person; $50,000 as a result of an accident that causes multiple injuries or deaths; and $25,000 due to an accident without injury. All liability policies include paying all or part of what the driver is entitled to recover for damages from uninsured and underinsured motorists.

Bramnick said New Jersey they are among the lowest in the country and the change in the bill would be a “slight increase.”

But Heller said the move would “really raise prices” because it would require people to buy more insurance than they currently have to.

Heller said “car insurance is like no other product in society” because the government requires drivers to buy it and drivers who buy the least they can because it’s what they can afford are the ones who “have to bear the brunt of it.” the pain level increases which will come. “

Those thoughts were expressed by Alison CooperThe Vice President of the State Government of American Property Casualty Insurance Associationgroup that opposed the bill.

Cooper said in a statement that he is “concerned that this law will raise costs, especially for those on fixed incomes who may be forced to choose between paying for essentials such as gas, rent, groceries, etc. or insurance.”

“This type of legislation would have a very negative impact on many New Jerseyans, not to mention the state’s insurance market, which is currently healthy and competitive,” Cooper said. “These types of laws force many consumers with lower levels of knowledge than the new requirement to buy more.”

Scutari insists the legislation won’t increase driver’s premiums statewide because insurance companies have to step up. Department of Banking and Insurance request it and it would not be accepted.

Scutari said that his review of the data and evidence from insurance companies show that their profits are very high. New Jersey so they “can’t” get a legitimate raise.

“They have to give more $10,000 by providing assistance to motorists and they cannot raise the prices,” he said.

He emphasized that it is now at least important New Jersey and “under everyone” and $10,000 the increase would “rebuild us at last.”

Cooper pointed out that drivers already have the option to buy higher limits or add-ons with and without insurance if they want and “forcing consumers to buy more means that their insurance will go up and that may be more than they want, want, or can afford.”

The law also includes gradual increases in requirements, the first in 2023 and the second in 2026. Gary La Spisavice president of Insurance Association of New Jerseyhe said the second part is his concern.

La Spisa said that insurers already sell policies that have the limits that the money needs and that the increase in 2026, which makes the population less. $35,000 on injury and $70,000 incidentally, it doesn’t consider what might change after the first episode.

“This second increase comes without a review of the impact of the first increase New Jersey drivers,” said La Spisa. He added that “more than 1.36 million drivers will be affected by this change, and three quarters of these drivers will be affected by this increase.”

Although there is nothing in the bill that is required, Scutari confirms that after the first increase the Parliament will “check” the effect of the increase before starting the second phase. In that case, he said, there could be an increase.

“They will [the insurance industry] indicates that there is an opportunity to request a $10 the increase of the month, “said Scutari. “The worst case is that they will try to increase the prices in four years.”

The law will help everyone except the financially vulnerable because insurance companies will have more money and injured parties will have access to more, Heller said.

Bramnick defended the law by saying that for twenty years the insurance companies have “too much money.” Trenton“Closed rules that will benefit consumers. He said that this law will increase the benefits for drivers and he said that the insurance center is “very good at raising all the emotional responses” that he considers to be “anti-consumer.”

New Jersey it is among the states with the lowest limits, but it is among the highest rates, which Heller says is “a big issue.”

“You cannot separate the fact that people pay more than the rest of the world. New Jersey “Drivers are charging more than what they are charging in the rest of the country and because of that you have a big problem to deal with first,” he said.

James Lynchthe president of New Jersey Association for JusticeHe said his group strongly supports the rules because the minimum inspection requirements have not been changed in 50 years.

“In the last half century the cost of health care has exploded, there are more cars on the road than ever before, the cost of repairing a damaged car has skyrocketed – but the minimum amount required for car insurance has remained the same, but the minimum amount required for car insurance “It’s been the same, and the cost of buying a damaged car has skyrocketed,” Lynch said. “Minimums only need to be raised – it can be financially devastating to get into an accident without enough insurance to cover your medical expenses and damages.”