Frivolous Lawsuits a Red Herring for High Louisiana Premiums
Posted on Apr 1 , 2013
Automobile insurance rates are higher in Louisiana than in almost anywhere else in the country. If you listen to the insurance companies, you might think that the state's high rates are due to an overabundance of frivolous lawsuits and zealous litigants trying to abuse Louisiana's judicial system for a quick profit. Unfortunately, this is just clever cover for the insurance companies' desire to maximize profits by limiting the rights of injured passengers and drivers. In reality, Louisiana's high premiums are due to a complex mix of factors. Louisianans at Higher Risk for Accident or Theft Part of the reason that car insurance is so expensive is simply that Louisianans tend to get in car accidents more frequently than drivers in other parts of the country. According to State Farm - the state's largest insurer - Louisiana has more accident claims per capita than any other state. At least one study has deemed Louisiana drivers the worst in the nation. It based that dubious distinction on the state's high incidences of traffic fatalities, drunk driving and careless driving behavior. To make matters worse, the state's roads consistently rank among the most poorly maintained in the entire country. Additionally, car insurance rates are another area where Hurricane Katrina is leaving a lasting legacy. Approximately 300,000 vehicles were destroyed in the storm and these losses have become part of the rate base. Louisiana also has a high rate of car thefts. Simply put, when it's more likely a car will be damaged or stolen, it's more expensive to insure it. Louisiana's relatively high poverty rate and number of people without health insurance also plays into car insurance costs. Low-income people are generally more likely to sue after a becoming injured in a car accident because they do not have any other way to pay to cover their expensive medical bills and lost wages. Limiting the Rights of the Injured Won't Reduce Costs Insurance companies would like Louisianans to believe that limiting the rights of the injured will reduce auto accident costs. Specifically, they want to lower the $50,000 limit for jury trials because they say judges are too friendly with personal injury attorneys. This couldn't be farther from the truth. In reality, juries tend to award higher verdicts than judges. But, judicial trials are streamlined and take less time, saving money for the legal system. Further, Louisiana courts favor motions for summary judgment, which dismiss non-meritorious lawsuits at the beginning of the court process. Very few attorneys would ever be willing - or even able - to take a frivolous lawsuit to trial. The truth is that civil remedies exist for a reason, and injured Louisianans deserve to have their rights protected. Instead of blaming the victims, all Louisianans need to do more to make the state a safer place to drive.