Mark Ballard: Some reform proponents are tired of trying to lower auto insurance premiums | Marc Ballard

After a fierce campaign among Republican lawmakers to cut auto insurance rates by making it harder to file and win lawsuits, some lawmakers said last week that they had had enough.

“I’m trying to avoid reopening these wars,” said State Rep. Greg Miller, the Norco Republican who chairs a House civil law and procedure committee that on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit reform measure. tort liability. Partly frustrated by the slow response of the insurance industry after Hurricane Ida, but especially by the increase in auto insurance premiums, many lawmakers seem reluctant to give the industry any further concessions, he said. added.

“We spent so much energy on tort reform and in the two years that followed, we didn’t see any benefits,” Miller said., an industry source that tracks such things, reported in March that its latest statistics show Louisiana rates are 99% more expensive than the national average. “Of all states, Louisiana is the most expensive state with an average car insurance premium of $2,839 per year, a 19% increase in rates from 2020. In contrast, Maine, with an average insurance premium of $858 per year, is the state with the lowest auto insurance rates.

The business community and the companies that insure them have long sought ways to reduce their exposure to costly judgments on all fronts. They landed on legislation to make going to court unattractive by making it harder to sue and erecting higher hurdles to winning any claim.

But evolving legal complexities are a tough sell, so businesses and insurers have used Louisiana’s skyrocketing auto insurance prices to rally public support for tort reform. “This is truly an issue that will excite Joe Six-Pack to call their legislator and push for tort reform,” said a insurance industry leader said to explain the strategy to legislators in 2020.

Louisiana drivers will pay the highest prices for auto insurance in the nation next year, despite the passage of a sweeping tort reform law that…

Supporters criticized opponents, often harshly, for trying to block a path to lower car insurance premiums. The other party countered that those prices were higher because of what’s included in Louisiana’s pricing, such as age, gender and marital status — not public access to courts.

One bill died in committee ahead of the 2019 election. Another passed and vetoed in 2020. A third, a package of tort reforms revamped by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R- Gonzales, was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards.

Two years later, car premiums are higher and members of the civil law committee wanted to know why.

Drivers in Louisiana have twice as many wrecks and twice as many soft tissue injuries, leading to more litigation and therefore higher rates, testified Rodney Braxton, a well-respected lobbyist who represents State Farm, the most state’s largest auto insurer.

Although debate and negotiations have dragged on for years, an agreement on legislation to limit civil lawsuits in hopes of lowering car insurance rates di…

“We can’t solve this problem through legislation,” said Rep. Larry Frieman, a Republican from Abita Springs who had advocated for tort reform in 2020.

Rep. Beryl Amedée, R-Houma and one of the more conservative members of the chamber, also disagreed. She asked for statistics showing the injury ratio of Louisiana drivers when they are wrecked in other states and what drivers from other states claim when they have accidents in Louisiana.

Sen. Kirk Talbot, the River Ridge Republican who sponsored the previous bill that passed and then vetoed, understands his colleagues’ fatigue.

“The whole tort reform debate has been very emotional, it’s taken your breath away from a lot of things,” Talbot said Thursday.

Yet the impact of the legislation was not felt because almost as soon as the law took effect, the pandemic shut down jury trials for months. “We still haven’t had a chance for it to take effect and we’re seeing what the impact is,” he said.

Bill to cut auto insurance in Louisiana OK'd by House;  see next steps, negotiations

The Democratic governor and Republican lawmakers plan to spend the weekend negotiating long-fought legislation that supporters say will lower…

“I would also remind them that my bill, which was deep, was vetoed. The one that passed was what we could get passed, a watered down version that I didn’t think went far enough,” Talbot added.

Robert Kleinpeter, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents sinking victims and other plaintiffs, noted that the business community has tried since the 1970s to limit access to court through legislation.

“It’s like in medieval times when they used leeches to promote health. They argued for years and years about whether four leeches was enough, six too many? We look at medicine 300 years ago and wonder how could we have believed this? We are at this point with lower auto insurance rate legislation,” Kleinpeter said.

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