HB 1192, introduced by Rep. Mahan, is an interesting concept. It would prohibit insurers from paying out noneconomic damages to uninsured motorists and would immunize other motorists from having to pay noneconomic damages to such motorists. Noneconomic damages refers to such things as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other nonpecuniary losses. It does not refer to medical expenses, lost wages, or loss of economic potential. “Uninsured motorist” means the owner of a vehicle who doesn’t have the required financial responsibility in place at the time of the accident — whether the individual was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident or not. There are exceptions for kids under 18 and victims of intentional acts or crimes.
Not sure I agree with the legislation, but I understand the premise. Most damage claims are going to be paid, one way or another, by insurance money. Why should someone be permitted to take advantage of the responsible act of another (e.g. paying their insurance premiums) when they didn’t show the same responsibility themselves. They wouldn’t be missing out on “real” losses — medical expenses, lost income, and the like; but only the less easily quantifiable losses like pain and suffering. If the roles were reversed, their victims would get nothing from them (but could recover from their own uninsured motorist coverage if they had it.)
On the other hand, this can also be seen as creating a two tiered system – one for poor people who can’t (or won’t) afford insurance and a different one for people who can. (The retort to this would be that if you can’t afford insurance, then you can’t afford to drive.) I’m guessing the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association is against this one!
John M says
This law would inure to the benefit of my clients, but I’m troubled by it for some of the reasons you note in the final paragraph. Certainly, it is irresponsible to drive without auto insurance, but such decisions almost always are financially-driven. Driving without insurance already is an infraction (or a low level misdemeanor if one has priors) and a basis for license suspension. I doubt the passage of this law will motivate anyone who doesn’t have insurance to buy it.
“The retort to this would be that if you can’t afford insurance, then you can’t afford to drive.” I’m sure that this retort would be really convincing to lots of people in this state. It’s also absolute bunk. I’ve lived in several different cities and towns in Indiana. Bloomington is the only one I would describe as having a good transit system for its size. Indy’s is barely adequate, which seems to be the standard for most of Indiana’s cities. In some parts of the state (the vast majority of the state by acreage) there is no alternative transportation. Someone in dire financial straits can’t afford to drive but can’t afford not to drive.
As you know, insurance companies don’t simply roll over and pay big pain and suffering settlements for no reason, and Indiana juries are pretty conservative. They tend to go to people who are significantly injured and weren’t at fault for the accident. This law would deprive the right to be made whole from those who probably are least likely to be financially equipped to survive a significant injury. Finally, as a practical matter, personal injury attorneys are paid out of the non-economic portion of a settlement/verdict. Eliminating non-economic damages would make it much less likely that those who have incurred significant special damages will be able to hire an attorney, and will make it all the more difficult for them to get even what they would be entitled to under this new regime.
But, this is Indiana. Those of us who don’t view poverty as primarily a moral failing are a distinct minority in this state.
so having liability insurance would provide limited immunity from liability… I don’t see this one even getting a committee hearing.