IN THE CITY of Washington--thanks to a certain committee of its legislative council--you may add to the traditional threat of holiday drunken drivers the equally chilling prospect that about half of the motorists in the District have no car insurance. This is something that many thoughtful legislators in city hall --some say it is a majority of the council--would change through passage of a genuine model no-fault insurance law providing routine compensation to all accident victims without litigation. So why hasn't such a law been enacted?
Apparently, even after years of study, the council committee to which no-fault insurance bills have been assigned still isn't quite ready to let the full council vote on a no-fault bill. More than a month ago, there was official word from the head of this committee, Wilhelmina J. Rolark, that a bill would definitely be produced before the end of this year. It goes without saying that the end is near--and the last reply from Mrs. Rolark's office was that some sort of bill will be marked up sometime in January, though no date had been set.
This lack of urgency may well be connected to the fact that Mrs. Rolark, an attorney, has many of the same views on the subject as other trial attorneys--namely, that they oppose any law that might substitute compensation for litigation for personal injury claims. Trial lawyers, of course, prefer litigation and all its attendant fees. They would have people believe that no-fault insurance laws prohibit the "right to sue" for any pain and suffering--which is not so. The purpose of no-fault is to eliminate lawsuits (and the high costs of them) for most claims while still allowing for suits and countersuits in extreme circumstances.
Similarly, passage of a mandatory, no-fault insurance bill would not be a bonanza for insurance companies; instead, insurance laws and insurance companies could provide better coverage--which is what insurance is for in the first place. That, and not merely a bill making the existing insurance system mandatory for everybody--is what more and more people are seeking around the country, and what is urgently needed here.