(TRENTON)- Governor James E. McGreevey
today signed into law legislation protecting victims of
domestic violence from insurance discrimination.
“Domestic violence is an especially
destructive form of abuse because it wears a familiar face,”
said McGreevey. “It is a terror that has turned far too
many homes into places where women - as well as men, children
and seniors - silently suffer from both physical and emotional
abuse. Victims of domestic violence should not have to
suffer anymore once they are free from their abusers.”
The legislation prohibits property or life
insurance companies from engaging in discriminatory practices
against victims of domestic violence. Such practices
include coverage denials, restricting or limiting policy
benefits or adding premium differentials to policies.
State insurance regulators will be
empowered to pursue fines and penalties against offending
insurers. Regulators can order violators to pay up to
$5,000 in penalties for each violation. They can also
initiate state or federal court action to gain equitable
relief from insurers that discriminate against victims of
"Insurers who discriminate against victims
of domestic violence contribute to the misguided and
unfortunate tradition of 'blaming the victim'," said Senator
Barbara Buono. "It is high time we adopt insurance
policy in New Jersey that will protect domestic violence
victims, not punish them."
"This law will ensure that domestic
violence victims are not also victims of insurance
discrimination," said Senator Joseph F. Vitale.
"Victims of domestic violence, like those who employ or
shelter victims of domestic violence, do not deserve to be
treated by insurance companies as if they have committed a
violence victims who lived under the thumb of their abusers
should not be further tormented and afraid of neglect by the
insurance industry," said Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg
"Victims need to be able to get out from under the cloud of
fear so they can live healthy, normal lives. An act of
domestic violence occurs every eight minutes in New Jersey,"
said Weinberg. "Insurance companies do not have the
right to rub salt in the wounds of these victims by denying
coverage on the basis of domestic violence."
"Victims of domestic violence should not
have to fighting discriminatory insurance practices," said
Assemblyman Joseph V. Doria (D-Hudson). "The cycle of
abuse should not be repeated by insurance practices that lack
an ethical and a moral compass and compound the suffering of
domestic violence victims.”
Last year, Governor McGreevey signed an
Executive Order creating the Domestic Violence Fatality Review
Board to study domestic violence homicides in order to address
systemic changes. Also last year, Department of Human Services
Commissioner Gwendolyn Harris convened a Domestic Violence
Working Group to address the relationship between domestic
violence and child abuse.
As Mayor of Woodbridge, McGreevey
established the township’s Domestic Violence Response
Team. In 1996, the State selected Woodbridge’s Team to
serve as a model of other towns in New Jersey which were
planning on establishing similar units.