|NJ Car Insurance- NJ Auto Insurance Policy Under A.I.C.R.A., New Jersey consumers have more choices with regard to their NJ Car Insurance. These choices give you the option to choose coverage limits that best fit your individual needs at the time you buy or renew your policy.
New Jersey CAR INSURANCE – BASIC POLICY New Jersey Car Insurance Consumers may choose either a standard auto insurance policy or a new basic type of policy. The new basic policy allows vehicle owners to purchase lower amounts of certain coverage’s than New Jersey law previously required.
A basic policy offers $15,000 in NJ PIP personal injury protection coverage and includes up to $250,000 of medical benefits coverage for catastrophic-type injuries, $5,000 property damage liability and an option to purchase $10,000 of bodily injury liability coverage. If you purchase a basic policy, you cannot purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Companies can, at their option, also offer to sell collision and comprehensive coverage’s with this type of policy.
NJ CAR INSURANCE – STANDARD POLICY A New Jersey standard auto insurance policy offers motorists a variety of coverage options; NJ State law requires you to purchase certain minimum limits of three coverage’s:
NJ CAR INSURANCE POLICY Personal Injury Protection –NJ PIP pays for injuries to you and your passengers, no matter who is at fault in an accident. Insurance companies must offer you up to $250,000 of coverage.
NJ CAR INSURANCE- PIP OPTIONS NJ CAR INSURANCE Consumers will also have new choices with regard to their personal injury protection or PIP benefits coverage. New Jersey law previously mandated that all policyholders purchase $250,000 of PIP benefits. PIP pays for injuries to you and your passengers, no matter who is at fault in an accident.
NJ Auto Insurance PIP Overview
“PIP” is an acronym for the PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION BENEFITS contained within an NJ automobile insurance policy.
With the enactment of the AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COST REDUCTION ACT (“AICRA”) , NJ medical providers were imposed with a complete new set of rules to follow in order to obtain compensation for reasonable and necessary medical expenses rendered to a covered person when the medical expenses were causally related to a motor vehicle accident. Failure to comply completely with the new set of rules would result in the reduction and/or elimination of compensation due the medical provider from the respective automobile insurance carrier. Furthermore, failure to comply completely with the new set of rules would also result in the medical provider being prohibited from collecting the compensation due directly from the patient.
Given the above, it is obvious that the medical provider and the supporting office staff must have complete familiarity with the new set of rules and terminology ushered in with AICRA. If this complete familiarity is accomplished, the medical provider will still be able to enjoy the financial rewards of a successful practice with PIP. However, if the medical provider and the supporting office staff fails to become completely familiar with the new set of rules and terminology ushered in with AICRA, financial detriments will certainly occur.
Prior to AICRA, the treating medical provider basically controlled the treatment plan of the patient and the diagnostic testing utilized in the furtherance of the treatment plan of the patient. However, AICRA has now delegated the COMMISSIONER of the DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND INSURANCE (“DOBI”) to be an important factor in the aforementioned treatment plan of the patient and the diagnostic testing utilized in the furthermore of the treatment plan of the patient. This was accomplished by the passing of regulations by NJDOBI that established and/or continued the following:
COMMITTING A CRIMINAL ACT OR ATTEMPTING TO AVOID LAWFUL APPREHENSION BY A POLICE OFFICER; (N.J.S. 39:6A-7(a)(1));
NJ AUTOMOBILE-BASIC POLICY PIP MEDICAL BENEFITS Assuming that there is no statutory exclusion of PIP medical benefits as outlined above, a new limitation of PIP medical benefits was ushered in under AICRA depending upon the type of automobile policy that is chosen by the insured. Specifically, if an insured elected the BASIC POLICY, the PIP medical benefits are limited to $15,000.00. (N.J.A.C.11: 3-4(a)(1)).
The only exception would be additional monetary coverage not to exceed $250,000.00 for “all medically necessary treatment of permanent or significant brain injury, spinal cord injury or disfigurement or medically necessary treatment of other permanent or significant injuries rendered at a trauma center or acute care hospital immediately following the accident and until the patient is stable, no longer requiring critical care and can be safely discharged or transferred to another facility in the judgment of the attending physician. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4(a)(1)).
STANDARD POLICY NJ PIP MEDICAL BENEFITS If the BASIC POLICY was not elected, then the monetary coverage that was applicable prior to AICRA remains in effect and the insured has what is now known as the STANDARD POLICY. Specifically, this policy provides monetary coverage for PIP medical benefits to an amount not to exceed $250,000.00. (N.J.S. 39:6A-4(a)).
Notwithstanding the aforementioned monetary coverage limits of PIP medical benefits under the BASIC or STANDARD POLICY, the type of treatment and type of diagnostic testing utilized in the furtherance of the treatment plan for the patient have been altered under AICRA. This is further described later on in this overview.
PRIMARY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION As before AICRA, a PRIMARY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION is made available to insured’s that would make PIP medical benefits under an automobile insurance policy a secondary coverage for a reduced premium. (N.J.S. 39: 6A-4.3(d)). However, under AICRA, the PRIMARY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION applies only to a STANDARD POLICY. It is specifically prohibited as a coverage option under a BASIC POLICY. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4(d)).
However, if a named insured does not actually have health insurance at the time of the accident, then the automobile insurance carrier automatically becomes the primary. But, an additional $750.00 deductible is applied to the medical benefit payments. (N.J.S. 39:6A-4.3(f)).
In addition to the above, it must be noted that the election of a PRIMARY HEALTH INSURANCE OPTION applies only to a named insured and residing family members. As such, an individual who is not a named insured and does not reside with a family member who is a named insured automatically but is properly applying for PIP medical benefits under the policy has the automobile insurance carrier as primary. (N.J.S. 39:6A-4.3(f)).
DEDUCTIBLE AND CO-PAYMENT REQUIREMENTS: Prior to AICRA, a standard $250.00 deductible requirement and 20% co-payment requirement on the next $4750.00 in medical expenses was applied. However, under AICRA, deductibles can now be offered to insured’s under a BASIC POLICY or a STANDARD POLICY in amounts of $500.00, $1000.00, $2000.00 and $2500.00. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.4(b)). The only exception is for a private passenger automobile insured under a commercial automobile insurance policy where no natural person is a named insured. In that situation, only the minimum $250.00 deductible can be offered. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.4(e)). Furthermore, the elected deductible requirement applies on a per accident basis, not a per person basis. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.4(c)).
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, it must be noted that the elected deductible applies only to a named insured and residing family members. As such, an individual who is not a named insured and does not reside with a family member who is a named insured automatically but is properly applying for PIP medical benefits under the policy has the minimum $250.00 deductible. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.4(b)(1)).
MEDICAL PROTOCOLS (CARE PATHS) One of the most significant changes with the enactment of AICRA is the established by DOBI of MEDICAL PROTOCOLS (CARE PATHS) for the treatment of identified injuries, including the utilization of diagnostic tests. Specifically, the treatment of accidental injury to the spine and neck and set forth in N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.6.
In the aforementioned regulation, there were SIX CARE PATHS promulgated. Specifically:
CARE PATH ONE (CERVICAL SPINE: SOFT TISSUE INJURY);
CARE PATH TWO (CERVICAL SPINE: HERNIATED DISC/RADICULOPATHY);
CARE PATH THREE (THORACIC SPINE: SOFT TISSUE INJURY);
CARE PATH FOUR (THORACIC SPINE: HERNIATED DISC/RADICULOPATHY);
CARE PATH FIVE (LUMBAR-SACRAL SPINE: SOFT TISSUE INJURY); and
CARE PATH SIX (LUMBAR-SACRAL SPINE: HERNIATED DISC/RADIUCULOPATHY).
As can be easily seen by the above list, the CARE PATHS addressed three anatomical areas of the spine. Specially, the CERVICAL SPINE, the THORACIC SPINE and the LUMBAR-SACRAL SPINE.
Thereafter, each of the aforementioned three anatomical areas was subdivided depending upon the injuries present. Specifically, SOFT TISSUE INJURY and HERNIATED DISC/RADICULOPATHY.
Each of the CARE PATHS is attached hereto and a brief perusal of these documents show the attempt by DOBI to make the treatment of accidental injury to the spine and back, including diagnostic testing, into a flow chart. Furthermore, where the CARE PATH indicates a DECISION POINT either by a HEXAGON or by reference in the text to a second opinion, referral for a second independent consultative medical opinion, development of a treatment plan or mandatory CASE MANAGEMENT, a DECISION POINT REVIEW is required. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.6(b)). The aforementioned is further described later in this overview.
In addition, it must be noted that each CARE PATH specifically notes the following:
“NOTE: These CARE PATHS identify typical courses of intervention. There may be patients who require more or less treatment. However, cases that deviate from the CARE PATHS may be subject to more careful scrutiny and may require documentation of the special circumstances. Treatments must be based on patient need and professional judgment. Deviations may be justified by individual circumstances, such as pre-existing conditions and/or other co morbidities…”
The aforementioned NOTE is extremely important to the medical provider and the supporting office staff since treatments that vary from the CARE PATHS shall be reimbursable ONLY when warranted by reason of MEDICAL NECESSITY. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.6(c)). Furthermore, N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.2 defines MEDICAL NECESSITY as:
“The medical treatment or diagnostic test is consistent with the clinically supported symptoms, diagnosis or indications of the injured person, and:
The treatment is the most appropriate level of service that is in accordance with the standards of good practice and standard professional treatment protocols including the CARE PATHS… The treatment of the injury is not primarily for the convenience of the injured person or provider; and Does not include unnecessary testing or treatment.”
Given the above, it is imperative that the medical provider and the supporting office staff carefully and meticulously document the symptoms present during each visit and the treatment that was rendered. In addition, the aforementioned documentation MUST be clearly legible and clearly understandable to non-medical personnel. The practical reason for the aforementioned assertion is that any dispute over compensation of the medical services rendered will not be finally adjudicated by medical personnel but by a DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL or a JUDGE, either of whom is generally NOT a trained medical person. The procedure for final adjudication will be further discussed later in this overview.
In addition, each CARE PATH specifies the applicable ICD-9-CM codes.
DIAGNOSTIC TESTING DETERMINED TO YIELD NO DATA OF ANY SIGNIFICANT VALUE IN THE DEVELOPMENT, EVALUATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF AN APPROPRIATE PLAN OF TREATMENT FOR INJURIES SUSTAINED IN MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.5 (a), and another of the major changes ushered in with AICRA, was that the following diagnostic tests shall not be compensated for by PIP medical benefits since they have been determined to yield no data of any significant value in the development, evaluation and implementation of an appropriate plan of treatment for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents:
In addition to the above, and pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.5(f), the following diagnostic tests shall not be compensated for by PIP medical benefits since they have been identified by the NEW JERSEY STATE BOARD OF DENTISTRY as failing to yield data of sufficient volume to alter or influence the diagnosis or treatment plan employed to treat TMJ/D:
DIAGNOSTIC TESTING DETERMINED TO HAVE VALUE IN THE EVALUATION OF INJURIES, THE DIAGNOSIS AND DEVELOPMENT OF A TREATMENT PLAN FOR PERSONS INJURED IN MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.5 (b), and another of the major changes ushered in with AICRA, was that the following diagnostic tests shall be compensated for by PIP medical benefits since they have been determined to have value in the evaluation of injuries, the diagnosis and development of a treatment plan for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents:
It must be noted that the terms “normal,” “normally,” “appropriate” and “indicated” as used above are intended to recognize that no single rule can replace the good faith educated judgment of a health care provider. In addition, the utilization of the aforementioned terms is intended to indicate some flexibility and avoid rigidity in the application of these rules in the DECISION POINT REVIEW. This is further described later in this overview.
TWENTY ONE DAY NOTIFICATION UPON COMMENCEMENT OF TREATMENT
Following the commencement of treatment, the medical provider and the supporting staff MUST advise the responsible PIP insurance carrier within twenty ones days of the commencement of treatment. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.4)). There are certain exceptions to the aforementioned, however, the exceptions generally pertain to SECONDARY MEDICAL PROVIDERS as those who only perform a medical service or supply a care or durable medical good following receipt of a prescription from the treating medical provider. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.5(d)(1)) or if the medical condition of the injured person made it impossible to comply with the notice requirement ((N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.5(d)(3)).
The notification to the NJ PIP insurance carrier can be done by utilization of the NOTIFICATION OF COMMENCEMENT OF MEDICAL TREATMENT FORM approved by DOBI (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.4(a)(1)) or by a bill from the medical provider that includes the following information:
(N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.4 (a)(2)).
Furthermore, the aforementioned notification can be done by mail, facsimile or e-mail to the PIP insurance company. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.4 (c)). However, if mail is utilized, it MUST be done by certified mail, return receipt requested to avoid a non-receipt claim.
NOTE: The addresses and facsimile numbers of all PIP insurance carriers can be located on the DOBI website.
Failure to comply with the aforementioned twenty one day notice can result in the following reductions pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.3(b):
Furthermore, any applicable reduction can not be retrieved directly from the patient (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.7), however, the PIP insurance carrier MUST respond to the treating medical provider within fourteen days of receipt of the notification. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-25.3(f)).
As can be clearly observed from aforementioned, it is imperative that complete and accurate information regarding the insurance information of the patient be obtained immediately. As such, the medical provider and the supporting office staff must be fully familiar with the concepts of PIP medical coverage and the correct PIP insurance carrier that is responsible for same.
DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN (PRIOR NOTICE, DECISION POINTS, ADDITIONAL CO-PAYMENT PENALTY, TEN DAY PERIOD) In addition to the promulgation of the MEDICAL PROTOCOLS (CARE PATHS), the restriction on compensation for certain diagnostic tests and the determination of validity for certain diagnostic tests, another of the major changes ushered in with AICRA was the promulgation of DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN and PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN. The later will be discussed later in this overview.
Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.7, all insurers must have a DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN that provides for a timely review of the IDENTIFIED INJURIES (CARE PATHS) at DECISION POINTS, (i.e.. the previously referenced “HEXAGONS” on the CARE PATHS), and for the approval of the administration of the DIAGNOSTIC TESTS determined to have value in the evaluation of injuries, the diagnosis and development of a treatment plan for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents
Furthermore, the regulation requires that each DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN must have:
Furthermore, the regulation also sets forth the requirements that the physical examination must meet. Specifically:
Furthermore, the regulation also sets forth that an ADDITIONAL CO-PAYMENT PENALTY, not to exceed fifty percent (50%) of the eligible charge for medically necessary treatment, diagnostic tests, surgery, durable medical goods and non-medical expenses that are incurred after notification to the insurer was required but before authorization for continued treatment or diagnostic test is made when the insurer is NOT notified as required under the DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN or if there was a failure to provide medical records and/or there was a failure to attend the physical examination. However, the aforementioned does not apply if the insurer was given PRIOR NOTICE and failed to act in accordance with the DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.7(b)(3)).
Furthermore, all DECISION POINT REVIEW PLANS, including any PRE-CERTIFICATION PLANS (to be described later in this overview), shall contain provisions for the disclosure of the procedures and descriptions of:
Furthermore, no DECISION POINT REVIEW REQUIREMENTS shall apply within 10 days of the insured event. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.7(e)).
As can be derived from the pertinent regulations noted above, each insurance company can file its own DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN for approval by DOBI. As such, the requirements can be different for each insurance company, and as such, the medical provider and the supporting office staff MUST have a copy of the pertinent DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN in order to fully comply with all requirements. Although the aforementioned will obviously require additional work to the medical provider and the supporting office staff, the alternative is the loss of income for medical services rendered to the patient.
In addition to the above, when a denial is rendered by the insurance company under the DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN, any internal appeal procedure must be followed. As noted in N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.7 (b)(1)(iii), any denial of reimbursement for further treatment or tests shall be based on the determination of a physician. As such, it is strongly recommended that when the provider discusses the denial with the insurance company doctor, the following information is obtained from the insurance company reviewing doctor:
Also, many insurance carriers are utilizing servicing agents for their DECISION POINT REVIEW PLANS. As such, documentation may be required to be submitted to both the insurance company and the servicing agent in order to completely protect the interests of the medical provider.
In addition, it must be understood by the medical provider and the supporting office staff that DECISION POINT REVIEW and PRE-CERTIFICATION are two completely separate topics. Furthermore, DECISION POINT REVIEW does not mean that prior approval must be obtained for future treatment under the CARE PATHS or for the administration of the DIAGNOSTIC TESTS listed as having value in the evaluation of injuries, the diagnosis and development of a treatment plan for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents.
Instead, there will certainly be many situations where the insurer denies authorization for the future treatment and/or diagnostic testing. As long full compliance is made under the DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN and the medical provider can document the medical necessity of the treatment and/or diagnostic testing, compensation can be obtained for the services rendered in the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION process as described later in this overview.
Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.8, insurers may file for approval with DOBI for a PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN that provides for pre-certification of certain medical procedures, diagnostic tests, or other services, non-medical expenses and durable medical equipment that are not subject to decision point review and that may be subject to over utilization. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.8(a)) However, any PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN does not replace, or negate, the requirement to have a DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN as described previously. In addition, a PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN can not be utilized for treatment under the CARE PATHS or for utilization of the DIAGNOSTIC TESTS determined to have value in the evaluation of injuries, the diagnosis and development of a treatment plan for persons injured in motor vehicle accidents.
Furthermore, the regulation required that any PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN must have:
In addition, PRE-CERTIFICATION PLANS may include provisions regarding COMPENSATION FOR DURABLE MEDICAL GOODS and other services. Specifically:
As with the DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN, the requirements for each insurance company can be different. As such, the medical provider and the supporting office staff MUST have a copy of the pertinent PRE-CERTIFICATION PLAN in order to fully comply with all requirements. Although the aforementioned will obviously require additional work to the medical provider and the supporting office staff, the alternative is the imposition of a possible 50% co-payment penalty for the services rendered that can not be recovered from the patient.
PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION (FORMERLY “PIP ARBITRATION”); (DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSION (“DRP” AND FORMERLY “ARBITRATOR”); ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS; MEDICAL REVIEW ORGANIZATION (“MRO”) APPLICATION FOR DISMISSAL AND EMERGENT/EXPEDITED FILING
Another major change ushered in with AICRA was the overhaul of the former PIP ARBITRATION process. The aforementioned process was previously an extremely effective tool to compel a PIP insurance carrier to pay for the reasonable and necessary medical expenses rendered that were causally related to a motor vehicle accident.
Although the new process appears that it will also be effective, there are major changes that were enacted by statute and regulation that if not complied with would result in the denial of payment for medical services rendered. This is more fully described below.
Prior to AICRA, the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION was designated as the sole adjudicating authority for disputes being arbitrated over PIP medical benefits. However, pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.3 (a), the COMMISSIONER of DOBI has the sole authority to designate the organization to administer the disputes over PIP medical benefits. Although the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION remains the sole adjudicating authority for disputes being arbitrated over PIP medical benefits, the organization can be replaced by DOBI once any contractual time period currently in existence expires.
In addition to the above, there were certain vernacular and procedural changes made regarding the process. The most important changes are described below.
In regard to the most important vernacular changes, the process is no longer called a PIP ARBITRATION. Instead, the new process is called a PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION. In addition, the adjudicator is no longer called an ARBITRATOR. Instead, the adjudicator is now called a DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL (DRP).
In addition to the name change to a DRP, there were certain qualifications imposed upon an individual to become a DRP pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.5(a). Specifically, a DRP must be:
The aforementioned requirements have changed the prior system of the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION having a roster of approximately 480 part time ARBITRATORS to a current system of the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION having a roster of approximately 25 full time DRPs. The result should create a system of having a staff of adjudicators that are fully familiar with the applicable laws of PIP and create a system of uniformity in decision making that was not always present in the prior system.
In addition to the aforementioned vernacular changes, there have also been major procedural changes. However, instead of describing only the changes, a full description of the current process is below. (NOTE: All references hereafter to a RULE refer to the RULES OF THE AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION.)
Pursuant to RULE 3 (INITIATION OF ARBITRATION), the initiation of a PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION commences with the filing of a DEMAND FOR ARBITRATION with the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION. The filing must be made with the following documents:
The entity filing the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION is known as the CLAIMANT and the insurance carrier defending same is known as the RESPONDENT. However, it must be noted that the entity filing the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION does not have to be the injured person. Instead, a medical provider may file the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION if a proper ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS FORM has been executed to the medical provider. This is more fully described below.
Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-4.9, an insurance carrier may file for approval with DOBI for “reasonable procedures for, or restrictions on, the assignment of personal injury benefits, consistent with the efficient administration of the coverage.” As such, it is imperative for a medical provider to obtain any required ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS FORM to be executed by the patient from the responsible insurance carrier. Of course this is in addition to the medical provider complying with all requirements of the TWENTY ONE DAY NOTIFICATION, DECISION POINT REVIEW PLAN and PRE CERTIFICATION PLAN.
If the aforementioned is complied with, then the medical provider can become the direct CLAIMANT against the responsible insurance carrier. This is not only a preferable position for the medical provider but a practical position since any dispute over PIP medical benefits will be directly between the true financial parties in a dispute over PIP medical benefits, namely, the medical provider and the insurance carrier.
The forum for adjudication of a PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION can be by WRITTEN DOCUMENT SUBMISSION or by ORAL HEARING pursuant to RULE 4 (CHOOSING ORAL HEARINGS OR DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL REVIEW OF DOCUMENTS). However, if the CLAIMANT elects a WRITTEN DOCUMENT SUBMISSION forum, the RESPONDENT has the right to demand an ORAL HEARING instead if the demand to change the forum of adjudication is done within thirty days of the filing for the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION.
Once the filing has occurred, the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION will appoint a DRP to adjudicate the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION pursuant to RULE 8 (APPOINTMENT OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL). However, a three DRP panel can also adjudicate the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION if:
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, there are practical reasons against the selection of a three DRP panel. Most importantly, the monetary cost of the filing fee.
As noted earlier, the initiation of the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION must also include the filing fee. The filing fee cost for a WRITTEN DOCUMENT SUBMISSION is $275.00 while the filing fee cost for an ORAL HEARING is $325.00. However, if a three DRP panel is requested, there is an additional $800.00 filing fee cost added on to the aforementioned figures.
Once the DRP is appointed, either party may challenge the appointment within twenty days of the appointment for “reasonable cause” pursuant to RULE 8 (APPOINTMENT OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL). Furthermore, RULE 8 (APPOINTMENT OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROFESSIONAL) provides that “reasonable cause” may include application of the principles outlined in the CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT. However, and as a practical matter, it is extremely difficult to remove a DRP unless an ACTUAL financial or personal interest can be shown.
Once the time period to challenge the appointment of a DRP has expired, a discovery period occurs where the exchange of information between the parties occurs. However, since the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION is not a court proceeding, the COURT RULES pertaining to discovery do not specifically apply. In addition, and pursuant to RULE 21 (EVIDENCE), the “DRP shall be the judge of the relevancy and materiality of the evidence offered, and conformity to legal rules of evidence shall not be necessary.” Furthermore, and pursuant to RULE 22 (EVIDENCE BY AFFIDAVIT OR DOCUMENT), the “DRP may receive and consider the evidence of witnesses by affidavit or other document, but shall give it only such weight as the DRP deems it entitled to after consideration of any objection made to its admission.”
Pursuant to RULE 17 (EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION), “the DRP may establish the extent of and schedule for any such exchange pertaining to the subject matter of the arbitration, including, but not limited to the [discovery] outlined in N.J.S. 39:6A-13 or provided by the applicable policy of insurance.” The aforementioned discovery includes:
Besides the above mentioned discovery tools, SUBPOENAS may be issued by the DRP, or an attorney representing a party, for evidence that is relevant and material to the dispute pursuant to RULE 21 (EVIDENCE). However, the production of additional evidence by a party is subject to what “the DRP may deem necessary to an understanding and determination of the dispute in order to make a decision” pursuant to the aforementioned RULE. As such, an overbroad SUBPOENA can be squashed following an application for same with the DRP.
In addition to the above, and ushered in with AICRA, is the review by a MEDICAL REVIEW ORGANIZATION (“MRO”) pursuant to RULE 21A (ACCESS TO MEDICAL EXPERTISE). The parameters of a review by an MRO are:
The findings of an MRO shall be presumed to be correct, but may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence submitted to the DRP. (N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.8(b)).
As previously mentioned, the time period for the aforementioned discovery period is set by the DRP pursuant to RULE 17 (EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION) except if the parties mutually agree to a modification of a time period pursuant to RULE 26 (EXTENSION OF TIME). Furthermore, separate rules pertain if the forum for adjudication is a WRITTEN DOCUMENT SUBMISSION or an ORAL HEARING and each will be discussed separately below.
If the forum for adjudication is a WRITTEN DOCUMENT SUBMISSION, then the deadline for submission of proofs is set by the DRP pursuant to RULE 21 (EVIDENCE). Thereafter, the other party shall have ten days from receipt to respond to same.
However, if the forum for adjudication is an ORAL HEARING, then a copy of any document that a party intends to rely upon must be provided to the other party at least twenty days before the date of the ORAL HEARING set by the DRP pursuant to RULE 17 (EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION). Failure to do so may result in the barring of such evidence at the discretion of the DRP.
In addition to the above, if one or more parties do not appear at the ORAL HEARING, the DRP must, “in the presence of all other parties, place a call to the party…not appearing” pursuant to RULE 20 (ARBITRATION IN THE ABSENCE OF A PARTY). Thereafter, the DRP can determine to proceed or adjourn the ORAL HEARING, allow telephonic participation and supplemental written submissions.
It must be noted that pursuant to RULE 25 (WAIVER OF RULES) that any party who proceeds with a PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION after knowledge that any provision or requirement of the applicable RULES has not been complied with will be deemed to have waived the right to object to said violation. To preserve the right of objection, the aforementioned RULE requires that the objection must be stated in writing.
Once the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION proceedings are closed, a reopening is permitted pursuant to RULE 24 (REOPENING OF HEARING) before an AWARD is rendered. The reopening may be done at the initiative of the DRP or upon request of a party for good cause shown. However, the aforementioned RULE prohibits the reopening of the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION proceedings by the DRP for new evidence without the consent of all the parties involved.
Within forty five days from the close of the PIP DISPUTE RESOLUTION proceedings, or the reopened proceedings, the DRP shall render an AWARD pursuant to RULE 28 (TIME OF AWARD). However, the aforementioned time period may be changed by mutual consent of the parties involved.
The form of the AWARD is set forth in RULE 29 (FORM OF AWARD) and N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.6(d). As such, the AWARD must be in writing, signed by the DRP and must state:
In addition, the AWARD must be made in accordance with applicable principles of substantive law, the provisions of the applicable insurance policy and the regulations promulgated by DOBI. Furthermore, the AWARD must set forth a decision on all issues submitted by the parties for resolution.
It must be noted that pursuant to N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.6(e), if an AWARD “requires payment by the insurer for a treatment or test, payment shall be made, together with any accrued interest pursuant to N.J.S. 39:6A-5, within 20 days of receipt of a copy of the determination.”
Following receipt of the AWARD, and pursuant to RULE 35 (MODIFICATION/ CLARIFICATION), a party may request that the DRP:
However, the application for the aforementioned must be made within twenty days of the receipt of the AWARD. Furthermore, any objection to the aforementioned must be made within ten days after the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION acknowledges the receipt of the request pursuant to RULE 35 (MODIFICATION/CLARIFICATION).
In addition to the above, a party may appeal the AWARD pursuant to RULE 36 (APPEALS UNDER THESE RULES). As with a request made pursuant to RULE 35 (MODIFICATION/CLARIFICATION), a party making an appeal must do so within twenty days from the date the AWARD was mailed. However, an appeal made under RULE 36 (APPEALS UNDER THESE RULES) must also include a filing fee of $1050.00.
An appeal made pursuant to RULE 36 (APPEALS UNDER THESE RULES) will be decided by a three DRP panel, none of whom being the DRP that rendered the initial AWARD. All decisions and rulings by a aforementioned APPEAL PANEL must be made by majority and the AWARD being appealed may only be vacated or modified if it was incorrect as a matter of law.
As noted above, there is a twenty day time period following receipt of an AWARD for a party to file for a modification or clarification of the AWARD under RULE 35 (MODIFICATION/ CLARIFICATION) or an appeal of the AWARD under RULE 36 (APPEALS UNDER THESE RULES). Furthermore, and as also noted above, N.J.A.C. 11:3-5.6(e), “requires payment by the insurer for a treatment or test, payment shall be made, together with any accrued interest pursuant to N.J.S. 39:6A-5, within 20 days of receipt of a copy of the [AWARD].”
Given the above, following the expiration of twenty days following receipt of the AWARD, all administrative remedies available under the RULES of the AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION have been exhausted. Furthermore, any payment required by the insurance carrier is considered overdue. As such, the next step would be a filing of a COMPLAINT in the SUPERIOR COURT to either vacate the AWARD, modify the AWARD or confirm the AWARD into a JUDGMENT. The aforementioned will be briefly described below.
The statutory authority for the filing of a COMPLAINT in the SUPERIOR COURT is derived from N.J.S. 2A:24-8. However, and pursuant to the holding of TRETINA PRINTING, INC. v. FITZPATRICK & ASSOCIATES, INC., 135 N.J. 349, 358 (1994), an AWARD will be overturned only on a showing of fraud or corruption on the part of the arbitrator. As such, the practical application of the filing of a COMPLAINT in the SUPERIOR COURT is that the AWARD is binding upon the parties.
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