A bill that claims to lower Louisiana’s auto insurance rates has passed through the state’s House of Representatives following a vote of 69-30. House Bill 372, proposed by Rep. Kirk Talbot, is based on the purported fact that Louisiana ranks as having the second-highest auto insurance rates in the United States. The cause, according to Talbot, is the increasing number of car crashes and, consequently, increased expenses for the insurance companies who are thus forced to raise their rates. In reality, the bill is nothing more than a scheme to bolster the wealth of insurance companies and gain their political support, all the while presenting the enticing disguise to Louisiana residents that their insurance rates will be radically reduced.
Talbot’s bill, also known as the “Omnibus Premium Reduction Act of 2019”, proposes an insurance carrier wishlist of way to save money on claims without any reduction in insurance premium costs. The first of which is to increase the prescriptive period for filing suit from one to two years. This change would certainly reduce lawsuits (as our neighbors in Texas and Mississippi have at least two years to file suit). In doing so, the bill encourages lengthened legal negotiations following automotive incidents resulting in a greater number of settlements and, therefore, reduced court costs. In a similar vein, the bill also reduces the jury threshold from the previous 50,000-dollar minimum to a mere 5,000 dollars, theoretically dissuading attorneys from taking cases to court, and again, resulting in reduced court costs. Talbot also puts forward the idea of limiting the amount of recoverable medical expenses following a car crash to that amount that is paid by the health insurance company rather than the amount billed. Lastly, Talbot wants to change the law so the insurance companies can no longer be defendants (just at fault drivers). Consequentially, according to Talbot, by reducing the expenses of insurance companies, the insurance companies unilaterally choose to lower the cost of their premiums for Louisiana residents.
Opponents of the bill rightly argue that its power-hungry proponents are taking advantage of honest citizens. Though the bill presents itself as looking out for Louisiana drivers, the bill will instead leave many victims of negligent and careless driving without being able to obtain the justice they deserve. Rather than settling cases outside of court and reducing court costs, the bill will force justice-seeking plaintiffs to take their cases to a jury trial, prolonging a verdict and clogging up courtrooms that could otherwise be free had the case been more expeditiously ruled by a judge. Moreover, by reducing the possible amount of medical expenses to be recovered by a given victim, the victim will often be left paying for large portions of his medical bills, himself, instead of that expense being charged to the person responsible for his damages.