HAVING RUN OUT of other arguments for protecting their fat legal fees in automobile-accident insurance claim cases, the trial lawyers' lobby is out to kill a sensible no-fault insurance bill in the House today by getting it pigeonholed in committee. It's that old game in which opponents of a measure push for a vote to "recommit" the bill - in effect, to delay it to death without being required to vote on its merits. Usually this maneuver is accompanied by excuses that the bill needs more study, is too complex, should be looked at by another committee, reviewed by another expert, redrafted or what-have-you. Some of these alibis might be of passing interest had not this bill been through all of the above while it was being carefully developed and considered in Congress for nearly eight years.
Whatever confusion opponents hope to generate in the committee, victims of auto accidents and purchasers of insurance have little difficulty understanding what's at stake here anymore. The idea is to establish minimum standards for state programs to deliver fast, direct relief - money - to accident victims instead of continuing the current mess, which burns up time and money in lawsuits and results in unfair compensation. That is why the growing list of supporters for this no-fault bill include an unusually broad coalition of consumers, business associations, older people, insurance companies, unions, medical and rehabilitation professionals and groups concerned about the financial health of the auto industry.
For that matter, it's a wonder the trial lawyers' lobby has been able to block no-fault relief for this long. True, this lobby has been extremely generous in its contributions to key members of Congress. But any member of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce who votes to "recommit" H.R. 13048 is saying "no" to all people who want insurance coverage rather than costly litigation. It is "no" to those who must buy insurance as well as anyone else - driver, passenger or pedestrian - who may some day be an accident victim. The committee members should reject all attempts to kill the no-fault bill by delays and instead approve it for a floor vote by the full House.