West Trenton, N.J.-based insurer New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company said it will pay a special dividend to policyholders totaling $61 million for the 15th year in a row.

The payment is in addition to the regular dividend payments that the company has made uninterrupted since 1918.

Approximately 405,000 personal auto policyholders in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will receive the special dividend checks averaging about $149 each from mid-November through mid-December.

NJM said the average check has been about $166 per year since 1994.

Additionally, NJM’s workers’ compensation regular dividend will rise from 15 percent to 20 percent of premium.

It will be returned to policyholders after an audit of their accounts for contracts expiring in January through March 2009.

NJM said it covers about 6,000 businesses, or roughly 19 percent of the voluntary market by premium in 2007.

“While some other companies have raised their auto insurance rates, relied on government bailouts, or spent money on extravagant marketing campaigns, NJM remains a careful steward of policyholder resources without compromising service to customers,” Bernard M. Flynn, president and chief executive officer of NJM, said in a statement. “We are well positioned to serve policyholders for many years to come.”

Each personal auto policyholder’s special dividend check will be 10 percent of the premium paid for the 12-month policy that began in 2007 for all coverages except personal injury protection (PIP) no-fault medical coverage. This is in addition to a 5 percent regular dividend already provided as a credit to the same customers when their policies renewed in 2008.

Dividend payments have not been returned on PIP for the past six years due to increasing health care costs.