In the name of consumer protection, Virginia lawmakers are considering a trio of bills intended to give victims more power to recoup costs after car crashes, a push the insurance industry says could raise premiums for drivers at a time when many can’t afford it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Together, the three pieces of legislation would double minimum liability coverage levels, give drivers more power to sue their own insurance company for “bad faith” decisions and allow victims to get more money from insurance carriers on both sides of a collision instead of having the at-fault driver’s insurance offset the victim’s insurance.
“This will help to make sure more people get their medical bills paid for and receive their fair sense of justice,” said Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, the sponsor of the bill to raise minimum coverage amounts.
The three bills have already passed the Senate with bipartisan support and are awaiting their initial hearing in the House of Delegates. The House Labor and Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up the bills early next week.
Several insurance industry groups are hoping to block them there, arguing the changes could potentially raise many Virginians’ premiums by several hundred dollars per year.
“You have people who are laid off, they’re trying to get their checks. It’s just such a stressful time,” Nancy Egan, a lobbyist for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, said in an interview. “It’s just not the right time to do this to the consumer.”
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.