PERHAPS YOU ARE wondering why all the fuss about today's vote on no-fault insurance.
Here is one reason for it: if council members vote as they did two weeks ago for the insurance bill that is before them again today, it will cost D.C. motorists an estimated 11 percent to 60 percent more for their automobile insurance premiums -- and for diminished coverage.
You can count on paying more for less if the current no-fault law is gutted in favor of today's "optional" bill.
There is another important point that the members who voted for changes keep choosing to ignore: If anybody wants serious statistical evidence of how the current law is working, it should be left as is until the completion of a special commission study that is under way as part of the law. A seven-member group, with representatives appointed by the mayor, certain council members and the chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, is charged with filing its findings by June 1987. So why throw all this out in favor of a new, totally uncharted law? Why not table the bill and give the current law a chance to work?
There were seven votes the last time against tabling the costly new bill by council members Winter, Schwartz, Jarvis, Ray, Rolark, Smith and Wilson. That led to a vote for or against the new proposal: council member William Spaulding then joined the seven in favor of the new bill that would wreck the current law.
Mrs. Winter, who switched from previous sponsorship of no-fault, claimed that her constituents prefer suing for medical expenses, lost wages and other costs. Do they really prefer this option, which is good only if they are found not at all at fault and which then takes a long and uncertain time to recover, to getting direct compensation within a set period of days? Do they know that in states with comparable no-fault laws, a U.S. Department of Transportation study showed that more than half of all victims of accidents receive nothing under a liability system -- and that those who do get some compensation received only about one-sixth of their actual losses?
Do these constituents know that the current no- fault protections apply to other accident victims -- uninsured pedestrians who don't own cars, children, drivers in single-car accidents and drivers considered "at fault"? Under the liability system, they're out of luck unless they can find somebody to sue.
According to the DOT study, more victims in no-fault states received more compensation more swiftly, and received better medical treatment than those in liability states. So why not see how the law here is working? Why not table the bill and find out?