As an alternative to the mandatory coverages provided in sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1972, c. 70 ( C.39:6A-3 and 39:6A-4 ), any owner or registered owner of an automobile registered or principally garaged in this State may elect a basic automobile insurance policy providing the following coverage:
a. Personal injury protection coverage, for the payment of benefits without regard to negligence, liability or fault of any kind, to the named insured and members of his family residing in his household, who sustained bodily injury as a result of an accident while occupying, entering into, alighting from or using an automobile, or as a pedestrian, caused by an automobile or by an object propelled by or from an automobile, and to other persons sustaining bodily injury while occupying, entering into, alighting from or using the automobile of the named insured, with the permission of the named insured. “Personal injury protection coverage” issued pursuant to this section means and includes payment of medical expense benefits, as provided in the policy and approved by the commissioner, for the reasonable and necessary treatment of bodily injury in an amount not to exceed $15,000 per person per accident; except that, medical expense benefits shall be paid in an amount not to exceed $250,000: (1) for all medically necessary treatment of permanent or significant brain injury, spinal cord injury or disfigurement or (2) for 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 requires critical care and can be safely discharged or transferred to another facility in the judgment of the attending physician. In the event benefits paid by an insurer pursuant to this subsection are in excess of $75,000 on account of personal injury to any one person in any one accident covered by a policy issued or renewed prior to January 1, 2004, such excess shall be paid by the insurer and shall be reimbursable to the insurer from the Unsatisfied Claim and Judgment Fund pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1977, c. 310 ( C.39:6-73.1 ). Benefits provided under basic coverage shall be in accordance with a benefit plan provided in the policy and approved by the commissioner. The policy form, which shall be subject to the approval of the commissioner, shall set forth the benefits provided under the policy, including eligible medical treatments, diagnostic tests and services as well as such other benefits as the policy may provide. The commissioner shall set forth by regulation a statement of the basic benefits which shall be included in the policy. Medical treatments, diagnostic tests, and services provided by the policy shall be rendered in accordance with commonly accepted protocols and professional standards and practices which are commonly accepted as being beneficial for the treatment of the covered injury. Protocols and professional standards and practices which are deemed to be commonly accepted pursuant to this section shall be those recognized by national standard setting organizations, national or state professional organizations of the same discipline as the treating provider, or those designated or approved by the commissioner in consultation with the professional licensing boards in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety. The commissioner, in consultation with the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the applicable licensing boards, may reject the use of protocols, standards and practices or lists of diagnostic tests set by any organization deemed not to have standing or general recognition by the provider community or the applicable licensing boards. Protocols shall be deemed to establish guidelines as to standard appropriate treatment and diagnostic tests for injuries sustained in automobile accidents, but the establishment of standard treatment protocols or protocols for the administration of diagnostic tests shall not be interpreted in such a manner as to preclude variance from the standard when warranted by reason of medical necessity. The policy form may provide for the precertification of certain procedures, treatments, diagnostic tests, or other services or for the purchase of durable medical goods, as approved by the commissioner, provided that the requirement for precertification shall not be unreasonable, and no precertification requirement shall apply within ten days of the insured event. The policy may provide that certain benefits provided by the policy which are in excess of the basic benefits required by the commissioner to be included in the policy may be subject to reasonable copayments in addition to the copayments provided for herein, provided that the copayments shall not be unreasonable and shall be established in such a manner as not to serve to encourage underutilization of benefits subject to the copayments, nor encourage overutilization of benefits. The policy form shall clearly set forth any limitations on benefits or exclusions, which may include, but need not be limited to, benefits which are otherwise compensable under workers' compensation, or benefits for treatments deemed to be experimental or investigational, or benefits deducted pursuant to section 6 of P.L.1972, c. 70 ( C.39:6A-6 ). The commissioner may enlist the services of a benefit consultant in establishing the basic benefits level provided in this subsection, which shall be set forth by regulation no later than 120 days following the enactment date of this amendatory and supplementary act. The commissioner shall not advertise for the consultant as provided in sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1954, c. 48 ( C.52:34-8 and 52:34-9 ).
Medical expense benefits payable under this subsection shall not be assignable, except to a provider of service benefits, in accordance with policy terms approved by the commissioner, nor shall they be subject to levy, execution, attachment or other process for satisfaction of debts. Medical expense benefits payable in accordance with this subsection may be subject to a deductible and copayments as provided for in the policy, if any. No insurer or provider providing service benefits to an insured shall have a right of subrogation for the amount of benefits paid pursuant to any deductible or copayment under this section.
Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.2003, c. 18 , physical therapy treatment shall not be reimbursable as medical expense benefits pursuant to this subsection unless rendered by a licensed physical therapist pursuant to a referral from a licensed physician, dentist, podiatrist or chiropractor within the scope of their respective practices. Notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.2009, c. 56 ( C.45:2C-19 et al.), acupuncture treatment shall not be reimbursable as medical expense benefits pursuant to this subsection unless rendered by a licensed acupuncturist pursuant to a referral from a licensed physician within the scope of the physician's practice.
b. Liability insurance coverage insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for property damage sustained by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of an automobile in an amount or limit of $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs, for damage to property in any one accident.
c. In addition to the aforesaid coverages required to be provided in a basic automobile insurance policy, optional liability insurance coverage insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury or death in an amount or limit of $10,000, exclusive of interests and costs, on account of injury to, or death of, one or more persons in any one accident.
If a named insured has elected the basic automobile insurance policy option and an immediate family member or members or relatives resident in his household have one or more policies with the coverages provided for in sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1972, c. 70 ( C.39:6A-3 and 39:6A-4 ), the provisions of section 12 of P.L.1983, c. 362 ( C.39:6A-4.2 ) shall apply.
Every named insured and any other person to whom the basic automobile insurance policy, with or without the optional $10,000 liability coverage insuring against loss resulting from liability imposed by law for bodily injury or death provided for in subsection c. of this section, applies shall be subject to the tort option provided in subsection a. of section 8 of P.L.1972, c. 70 ( C.39:6A-8 ).
No licensed insurance carrier shall refuse to renew the coverage stipulated by this section of an eligible person as defined in section 25 of P.L.1990, c. 8 ( C.17:33B-13 ) except in accordance with the provisions of section 26 of P.L.1988, c. 119 ( C.17:29C-7.1 ) or with the consent of the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance.
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