A bill to established a no-fault automobile insurance system in the District of Columbia and require coverage of all cars licensed in the city was introduced in the D.C. City Council yesterday by Chairman Arrington Dixon and five other members.
If enacted, the measure would end the city's status as the region's only jurisdiction lacking some form of mandatory liability protection.
In announcing the introduction, Dixon estimated that drivers of 114,000 cars -- four of every 10 registered in the city -- currently have no automobile insurance.
Dixon said he drafted the bill with help from the Committee for Consumers No-Fault, a national coalition of insurance companies, consumers groups, unions and car rental firms.
A spokesman for the coalition, Theodore W. Johnson, said the measure would permit a person injured in an accident to submit a substantiated claim for up to $124,000 in expenses and lost wages without having to prove the mishap was anybody's fault. The claim would be paid by the insurance company carrying the policy on the car in which the injured person was riding.
No lawsuits would be permitted by injured persons in attemps to recover damages up to that amount, Johnson said. Suits claiming compensation for pain and suffering beyond that sum would be permitted, he said.Under typical insurance practice, a motorist making a claim must demonstrate that the accident was the fault of the other driver or of circumstances beyond his own control. Generally, the claims are paid by the company that insures the person found to be at fault.
Currently, 16 states have some form of compulsory no-fault insurance, Johnson said, while eight others have optional add-on benefits.
Under Maryland law, motorist are required to buy no-fault protection, basically to protect themselves against uninsured motorists, as part of a broader insurance package. Virginia motorists may obtain such coverage as an extra option.
Dixon estimated that District motorists would pay about $127 a year for the no-fault coverage. It would be in addition to insurance coverage protecting motorists against property damage and other accident-related costs.
Nationally, no-fault coverage that is accompanied by restrictions against lawsuits has been fought by the Association of Trail Lawyers of America, whose members earn their livelihoods by trying such cases.
Charles Parsons, president of the association's local affiliate, the Association of Plaintiffs' Trail Lawyers of Metropolitan Washington, said he could not comment until he read the bill. "But I will say that you don't often find consumers benefited by an industry-sponsired bill," Parsons said.
The measure is the fourth that has been introduced in the council this year that would require either compulsory insurance or no-fault, or both.
The earlier no-fault bills would provide smaller benefit payments.