Bill would affirm victims have right to choose courts over arbitration in disputes

TRENTON – A bill that would prevent insurance companies from forcing auto accident victims to submit to arbitration rather than lawsuits to settle certain disputes has been introduced.

The bill, S2997, sponsored by Joseph Pennacchio, (R-26), Morris/Passaic, would clarify language in the law, making it clear that those who are insured, as well as health care providers, have a right to go to court over medical expenses.

According to Pennacchio, although the law states that any party has the option of submitting a dispute to arbitration, some insurance companies have been requiring that all disputes be submitted to arbitration.

Pennacchio said he has received complaints from people who do not believe the arbitration process is fair.

“They would rather take their chances with a judge than a panel,’’ he said.

“My sense is most cases will still go to arbitration,’’ he said, “but now you will level off the playing field.’’

The bill would make it clear a party can file a suit in Superior Court.

At issue are several factors: Consumers sometimes may find the courts are costlier and more time-consuming than arbitration, but they may fear that arbitrators are likelier to side with industry.

Bill would affirm victims have right to choose courts over arbitration in disputes