If you’ve heard reports on the evening news that Louisiana lawmakers want to place limits on lawsuits, you may be wondering what that means and how it could affect you if you get into a car accident.
There’s been a push by some state lawmakers and business groups for new limitations on personal injury and car accident cases. They say the legal climate in Louisiana discourages negotiations over accident claims and encourages people to sue their insurance company. That’s helping to drive up automobile insurance rates, which are among the highest in the nation, these lawmakers say.
Let’s take a closer look at efforts to place limits on lawsuits — and on why similar efforts in past legislative sessions have failed.
Why are Some Louisiana Lawmakers Trying to Put Limits on Personal Injury Cases?
So far in 2020, nearly 60 bills have been drafted to find ways to reduce auto insurance rates. On average, Louisianans pay $2,300 every year to get insurance for their cars, a figure second only to Michigan. Those high rates have prompted years of political debates over what can be done to provide financial relief to people coping with those high insurance costs. During the 2019 fall election season, business groups even made Louisiana’s high car insurance rates a rallying cry in state legislative races.
Some of the legislation that’s been proposed takes aim squarely at the insurance costs. State Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, has filed bills to prevent insurance companies from calculating insurance rates based on certain factors, including your credit score, your gender over age 25, whether someone is a widow, or if the policyholder has been deployed in the military for at least six months.
But other lawmakers are blaming lawsuits filed by those injured in car accidents, and they’re proposing legislation to make lawsuits in those cases more difficult to file. The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act would require the use of jury trials more frequently, under the theory that lawyers would have to sell their case for damages to more than a single judge. The bill would also put caps on certain types of damages, require people filing auto accident lawsuits into pretrial negotiations, and increase the time that accident victims have to file a lawsuit so both sides would have more time to work out a settlement.
The lawmakers promoting this bill believe that by limiting lawsuits in this way, that will save insurance companies money, which could trickle down to consumers in terms of lower rates.
The bill’s supporters also say limitations on lawsuits would encourage more insurance companies to open offices in Louisiana, and the increased competition would help force down rates.
But is that the right calculation?
Why Have Bills to Limit Lawsuits Failed in Past Years?
One reason these proposals haven’t advanced out of committee in past years is that insurance companies haven’t been able to guarantee that the legislation would actually lower rates. And critics have charged that limiting lawsuits could hurt consumers by preventing them from getting adequate compensation if they’re injured in an accident.
Opponents of the bill have also pointed to other factors that they claim are impacting insurance rates far more concretely than personal injury cases. They include:
- Poor road conditions
- Distracted driving
- Instances of Driving Under the Influence
- The high number of uninsured drivers on Louisiana’s roads
Some lawmakers are cautioning against overpromising Louisiana’s consumers what can be delivered. State Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, noted:
“The reason the general public doesn’t trust us is because we go out and sell something, and then we pass what we sell and then it never materializes. So, if we all go run around the state and tell everybody that we’re going to pass this and you’re going to see your insurance rates reduced, what happens in two years whenever we passed it and their rates don’t reduce?”
Experienced Louisiana Car Accident Lawyers Near You
Every moment wasted not contacting an attorney to help you with your car accident case is a potential dollar lost in your settlement, so it’s important to partner with a trusted attorney. In Louisiana, attorneys with E. Orum Young Law have decades of experience negotiating with insurers to reach fair settlements for their clients. E. Orum Young Law strives to handle all the complex legwork necessary to pursue a successful claim so you can focus on healing. We have more than 35 years of experience protecting Louisiana drivers and are ready to fight for you.