Legislation that would make it more difficult for car accident victims to pursue civil remedies was vetoed by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on June 12. The Omnibus Premium Reduction Act, which is also known as Senate Bill 418, was passed by a 66-31 vote in the House and a 28-10 vote in the Senate. The legislation’s backers claim that tort reform would lower car insurance rates in the Pelican State by at least 10%, but Governor Edwards pointed out in his veto statement that no auto insurance company testified in support of the measure. Car insurance rates in Louisiana are currently the second-highest in the nation.
If it had been signed into law, SB 418 would have made several important changes to the way car accident lawsuits are litigated in Louisiana. It would have reduced the jury threshold, which is the minimum claim amount that can be argued before a jury, from $50,000 to $5,000, extended the deadline for filing a lawsuit from one to two years, eliminated the prohibition on informing juries whether or not the parties involved were restrained by a seat belt and required many car accident victims to sue the negligent driver involved instead of their insurance company.
Why The Change?
Lawmakers who voted for the bill say that its passage would lead to far lower auto insurance rates in Louisiana. However, this is an assumption and no mandated rate reduction was written into the legislation. Three Republican legislators have drafted compromise bills that they hope Governor Edwards will find more acceptable.
Experienced personal injury attorneys would likely oppose legislation that makes it more difficult for accident victims to seek compensation, but they would likely support measures that extend the time limit to initiate litigation. This is because giving plaintiffs more time to consider legal action would allow their attorneys to pursue a negotiated settlement.