If you've heard or read any of those sky-is-falling warnings from the lawyers who profit from auto accident insurance claims, you can tell they're getting a little desperate now that the D.C. Council has agreed on a no-fault bill that deserves enactment. On TV and in leaflets, the cry-wolf pack is as frantic as it is inaccurate--clearly upset because on the last vote, 11 of 13 council members responded to a public demand for better insurance coverage and compensation by refusing to delay things any more. Instead, these members voted for a sound no-fault bill that deserves final approval-- without any more amendments or legislative tinkering.
Does anybody seriously believe, as the lawyers' paid-for scare-talk asserts, that this no-fault bill would strip everybody of civil rights, give insurance companies more power than the Internal Revenue Service or leave victims of accidents maimed and defenseless? That's nonsense--and 11 council members must have known better when they voted, as do organizations of consumers, the elderly, labor, business and other individuals who are sick and tired of the current insurance mess.
As approved last time, the bill would eliminate lawyers' fees from the most routine cases--getting those claims out of the courts and instead into quick compensation by check for victims. That's an important change. What would not--repeat, not-- change is the status of serious claims; nobody with a genuine, costly claim would be denied access to the courts--despite what some frantic opponents would have people believe.
So what's the insurance companies' angle? What's in it for them? It happens that they don't like those lawyers' fees, either. It's less expensive and more efficient to eliminate the legal middle- man in the vast majority of routine claims. Right now, one of the biggest bites out of every dollar consumers pay in premiums goes for covering the insurance company's legal fees.
Another big-scare claim of no-fault opponents is that insurance bills will go through the roof if the bill is passed. Baloney. Everybody can figure out that no matter what system is in place, premiums aren't likely to go down. The choice is between spending each premium dollar directly for coverage--compensation for damages--or indirectly, with all those lawyers' fees still included, for litigation to try to recover for damages.
Genuine no-fault, including a requirement that every motorist in the city carry insurance, deserves what any lawyer would call a fair trial. That's why the spotlight will be on every council member Tuesday--and why the council should reject all amendments and other attempts to stall or sabotage a bill that can work.