As the D..C. Council steels itself for yet another round of voting on no-fault insurance, all District motorists and everybody else who some day might be an accident victim should monitor carefully the positions taken by each council member--because opponents of better coverage through no- fault could try to create enough legislative confusion to postpone or kill the bill.
Aside from various "what ifs" and "how abouts" that no-fault opponents keep raising to shift attention from the main point of the bill, the issue boils down to this: do they support a genuine no-fault system with a serious "threshold" that would get routine claims out of the courts and into quick compensation by check? Or do they seek to preserve a system that would continue to send nearly every accident claim into expensive litigation?
As for claims that no-fault somehow could leave a seriously injured person without just compensation --that's not how it works. The purpose is to clear up routine claims quickly, no questions asked; but anyone with serious damage claims still could sue, in the same fashion as now.
Cost? Leaving aside all the estimates and tables from anybody in this discussion, there are two considerations: 1) premiums aren't likely to go down, no matter what system is in place, and 2) the choice is between spending each premium dollar directly for coverage--compensation for damages--or indirectly, with lawyers' fees included, for litigation to recover for damages. It is not a matter of making more money for insurance companies, but saving money that insurance companies--meaning, guess who--now have to pay for legal costs.
That is why insurance companies find themselves in this instance on the same side of the issue as organizations of consumers, the elderly, labor, business and other groups that want an end to the current costly insurance mess. They realize that a no-fault bill may not be perfect in every regard this time to merit enactment. But with a proper threshold, no accident victim would go without compensation; no accident victim with serious claims would be denied the opportunity to sue; and no District motorist would be allowed to drive this city's streets without coverage.
That's worth trying--and the coming votes in the council will reveal who is for doing so, and who is for blocking a long overdue change.