TODAY DISTRICT voters can find out which D.C. Council members side with a small, well-financed lobby of car-insurance lawyers seeking to destroy existing protections for victims of automobile accidents. The vote is on legislation to gut the city's no-fault auto insurance protections. Council members with any serious concern about fair and prompt compensation for victims should vote against this attempt to ruin the law.

At issue is the quality of protection and compensation for accident victims: how much of each premium paid actually goes to full coverage instead of to lawyers' fees and other legal costs that can eat up so much of what consumers pay for auto insurance. The lawyers and those who do their bidding on the council would have you believe that any increase in premiums over the past year is somehow the fault of the no-fault system. The price of eggs has gone up; is that because of inflation or did no- fault cause that, too?

You'll also hear a lot from the insurance lawyers about "the right to sue." More important than lining the pockets of these lawyers is the right to quick and fair compensation within a set time limit. That's what no-fault requires. That's what consumer groups, organizations representing the elderly and council members who understand the damaging effects of today's bill seek to preserve. Those who would wreck the law aren't even waiting for completion of a city-ordered study of its effects since passage.

The vote is expected to be close -- which is all the more reason for residents to make note of exactly which council members vote to sabotage the existing law and which vote to protect the greater public interest.