Insurance bill to allow more payout

CONCORD – A motorist slams into your car leaving you with personal injuries totaling $200,000.

The at-fault driver has coverage up to $100,000, and you have coverage that pays up to $100,000 if you are hit by an uninsured driver.

Under current law, you can collect only $100,000 in damages.

A Manchester Democratic legislator and noted trial attorney wants to let that victim driver get his $200,000 injuries paid for and calls it a basic unfairness in the current automobile insurance law.

“Most people think they are fully insured but don’t realize they cover nothing under their policy if the at fault person has the same amount of coverage,” said Rep. David Nixon.

Insurance leaders warned Nixon’s bill (HB 198) would lead to a perversion of the uninsured or underinsured coverage motorists buy and could raise the state’s relatively low auto insurance rates across the board.

George Roussos, a lobbyist with the New Hampshire Association of Domestic Insurance Companies, said drivers are free to buy as much uninsured coverage as they want to fully protect themselves.

“This bill will add costs at a time when people can least afford to pay for them,” Roussos warned in testimony to the House Commerce Committee.

“There is no need for this bill. You can buy this protection, if you want it, by purchasing more coverage.”

David Withers, actuary with the Insurance Department, agreed Nixon’s bill would have a price tag for all customers.

“Actually, there will be more losses paid, and the premiums will be higher no matter what the new limits are,” he said.

Some states allow motorists to piggyback or “stack” together medical damages they can collect on if they own multiple cars on the same insurance policy, and Nixon had a separate bill (HB 200) to allow just that.

Withers said he was not aware of any state that let victims collect for damages on the under-insurance of both drivers even if they have equal coverage limits.

New Hampshire does not require drivers to purchase automobile insurance.

Those who buy a policy, however, have to purchase a rider to cover accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers.

James Hatem, a lobbyist for State Farm, said this is to help motorists who have accidents with uninsured drivers.

Both sides agreed the overwhelming majority of consumers don’t understand what this coverage means in the event of an accident.

Concord trial lawyer and ex-Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas said he would soften the arbitration to make it apply only if the insurance company and injured motorist fail to agree on the covered damages.

“All this bill would do is put a little more honesty into the system,” Douglas said.

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph. com.