Insurance Bill Should Be Approved

Editor, News-Register:

A bill currently making the rounds in Charleston, House Bill 4466, will require automobile insurance companies to disclose the total amount of insurance coverage available to an injured party, from a driver who caused an accident, without first requiring an injured party to file a lawsuit to discover that information. This bill has received vocal opposition from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, who claims the bill violates privacy rights.

But the bill does not actually impact any privacy rights at all, because a West Virginia driver who hurts someone in an accident is already required to disclose insurance limits to the injured party once a lawsuit is filed. The current bill seeks only to change the timing of this disclosure. So the Chamber’s opposition to HB4466 is surprising, given its long-standing positions about an overabundance of lawsuits in our state; because the proposed change to the current law will reduce the number of lawsuits filed in West Virginia.

The notion of a pre-suit disclosure finds support in 12 other states, which have already enacted similar laws requiring notification of insurance policy limits upon the request of the injured party. Practically speaking, HB466 offers a change that is long overdue, because the bill eliminates the need for injured parties to file lawsuits when their damages exceed the amount of insurance coverage available to them from an at-fault driver. For those situations, HB4466 offers real protection from being sued for an accident.

By allowing injured parties to thoroughly and realistically evaluate their claims early in the process, and at-fault drivers to settle for the limits of their available insurance coverage without being put through the stress and strain of a lawsuit, HB4466 offers a low cost, sensible solution to reduce the number of lawsuits filed in our state – a measure which would presumably garner widespread, bipartisan support. In fact, even the International Risk Management Institute, comprised of insurance industry insiders, agrees that pre-suit disclosure is in the best interests of insurance policyholders.

The Chamber’s baffling position notwithstanding, HB4466 proposes only a small change to potentially affect a large economic benefit – arguably the best kind of bill for a legislature to enact – and seems like that rare bill that everyone can and should get behind.

Zak Zatezalo