PCI Letter Cites N.J. Auto Reforms

March 16, 2004

An editorial that appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger on March 4 evoked a positive response from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

PCI Northeast Regional Manager Richard Stokes, in a letter to the paper’s editor, said the article, “Progress on Auto Insurance,” had “hit the mark in pointing out dramatic changes in the New Jersey personal automobile marketplace after 30 troubled years.”

He pointed out that the changes had been possible because the governor and the Legislature “abandoned confrontation as a way of doing business,” and added that the PCI agrees that “auto insurers are finally looking at New Jersey as a new opportunity, which could provide consumers with more options and help drive down prices.”

But Stokes warned that it is equally important to note that reforms are at an early stage. “We are close, however, not all of the reforms have been adopted,” he wrote. “Insurers need all the reforms adopted, as well as time to feel the effects of the measures to improve service to consumers. We believe public policy makers are moving in the right direction. Most importantly, the 2003 New Jersey Automobile Insurance Competition and Choice Act includes essential consumer measures that provides individuals more opportunities to choose the best policies to fit their insurance needs at the best cost.”

Stokes indicated that no other state has enacted as extensive a number of consumer measures as N.J.’s auto reform act. The law also acts to contain auto insurance costs and provides a better business environment for auto insurance companies.

He also praised the N.J. Department of Banking and Insurance for having “moved quickly to establish more than 20 regulations necessary to carry out this landmark reform.” The DOBI’s continued responsiveness “by adopting the regulations is critical for the state’s insurance market to continue to improve.”

The letter also stressed that the PCI is “keeping an eye on the legislature.” It noted that a proposal sponsored by personal injury lawyers “that could jeopardize the progress made by calling for more lawsuits in minor cases in which they stand to gain the biggest windfall by earning millions in legal fees,” had already been introduced. Stokes implored “legislators to stand by their reforms and not let trial lawyers’ efforts reverse them by enacting legislation that would deny New Jersey drivers their existing choices in automobile insurance coverage and open courts to more lawsuits that would raise premiums for every consumer.”

He concluded by praising lawmakers for the “huge advances” they have made in reforming the state’s auto insurance system, but warned, “it is still early. Let’s finish the job.”

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