Insurance companies appear ready to capitalize on an anti-lawyer, too-many-lawsuits mood. They aim to convince Congress to adopt a national no-fault auto insurance system, a leading consumer attorney said Friday.
Mary E. Alexander, a San Francisco attorney specializing in personal injury lawsuits, told the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association convention that no-fault legislation just introduced in Congress has bipartisan support.
It is the first time since the 1970s that Congress has flirted with such a law, which has been adopted by more than 20 states.
With no-fault laws in place, a person injured in a car accident can’t sue the other party. The victim’s own insurance picks up any medical bills, but they may be capped at certain maximum amounts.
“With no-fault laws, insurance rates go up,” Alexander told 300 trial lawyers.
Georgia repealed its no-fault auto insurance law after consumers complained about rising premiums, Alexander said. But other states, including New Jersey, are considering enacting no-fault laws.
Similar legislation first was introduced in the state of Washington in the early 1970s, but has been successfully blocked by consumer groups and trial lawyers. There are signs the no-fault concept is being revived in Washington, Alexander said.
Her home state of California put a no-fault auto accident law on the ballot last fall, and 62 percent of the voters rejected the idea.
With no-fault laws, each driver’s damages are covered by their own personal insurance, and there’s no chance to sue the other guy for pain and suffering, lost wages or other losses.
“What it really means is reckless drivers go unpunished,” Alexander said. “Good drivers pay for bad drivers.”
Besides no-fault auto insurance, the trial lawyers group is talking about the $368.5 billion settlement reached June 20 with major tobacco companies.
The guru of the consumer movement, Ralph Nader, is scheduled to address the convention today. The association is headed by Spokane attorney Richard Eymann.
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