Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Auto Liability Bill Clears House Committee

To increase the incentive for all Oklahoma drivers to carry mandatory liability auto insurance, a House committee voted today to prohibit uninsured drivers from being able to sue for vague “pain and suffering” damages after an accident.

Rep. George Faught
“There have to be greater consequences for uninsured drivers,” said Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee. “If you or I are hit by an uninsured driver, there’s no insurance company to pay our actual losses, let alone ‘pain and suffering’ claims. Why should those same uninsured drivers be treated better than law-abiding citizens in a court of law?”

Under House Bill 1045, by Faught, the “maximum amount” an uninsured driver could receive through a lawsuit following an automobile accident would be limited to “the amount of medical costs, property damage, and lost income.”

The bill would not allow uninsured drivers to sue for vague “pain and suffering” awards that often result in large settlements, potentially lowering the cost of auto insurance premiums in Oklahoma.

The bill contains an exemption for situations where an uninsured driver is hit by a drunk driver or if the uninsured motorist was a passenger in a wreck.

In recent years, several official estimates have indicated Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation.

“We currently require drivers to carry liability insurance so they can pay for any damages they cause in an accident, but the law has no teeth. As a result, uninsured drivers get to bypass premiums, avoid liability, and still collect large awards if they are in an accident,” Faught said. “It’s time we made the system favor law-abiding citizens more than people who break the law.”

House Bill 1045 passed out of the House Insurance Committee today. It now advances to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

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