The New Jersey Senate is considering a bill that would allow first-party claimants to sue their insurance companies for any violation of the state’s unfair claim settlement practices without needing to prove the insurer violated the law often enough to have it considered a general business practice. Sens. Nicholas Scutari and Jeff Van Drew introduced the bill, S.B. 132, in January.
Under the bill, claimants would be permitted to sue for damages including any benefits properly due under the insurance policy with interest, plus court costs, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages if the violation demonstrates “by clear and convincing evidence, actual malice or wanton and willful disregard of persons who foreseeably might be harmed by the insurer’s acts or omissions.”
The bill would take effect immediately if passed and apply to all claims filed on or after the effective date.
The bill’s sponsors wrote that S.B. 132 is meant to incorporate New Jersey’s current case law which already recognizes private causes of action for bad faith actions of insurance companies in first-party claims into statutory law.