The NC General Assembly has done it this time. Under the guise of “reform,” House Bill 542 has passed, and it gives a bailout to auto insurance companies and their negligent drivers. Safe drivers are the losers.
If you’re involved in a traffic accident, the NC General Assembly has changed long-standing NC law to allow negligent drivers to benefit from their victims’ coverage. This is how the sleight of hand works: a negligent driver spends all night drinking at his local establishment. He decides to drive and hits you with his vehicle, causing you injury. But he no longer has to be responsible for your medical bills. He would continue to be responsible for what a provider is paid, but the negligent driver gets to benefit from YOUR insurance by not paying the full medical bill — your coverage now bails him out of complete responsibility.
Is this what the NC legislative leadership considers reform? Apparently so. In a not-so-veiled attempt to stick it to personal injury lawyers, the new law continues a trend in our state toward limiting NC citizens access to the court system. And this really harms one group — injury victims. Injury victims already have so many challenges to take their case before a jury: the cost of litigation (when you have lost so much already), the poisoning of jury pools by inaccurate perception of “frivolous” lawsuits and the attribution that our economic suffering is due to needless business expenses dedicated to defending excessive litigation. In fact, your attorney cannot even ask about the defendant’s automobile insurance policy when the case goes to trial because the defenders of insurance companies have persuaded NC legislators that such knowledge in the hands of a jury would be unfair to negligent drivers.
Do you see why this recent legislation is a further blow to good, law-abiding citizens of North Carolina and a lobbying win only for big insurance companies? If you have health insurance or coverage of any nature, the defendant cannot be made to pay you any of the money or benefit that you receive through your health care plan.
This article was written by Todd P. Oxner