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Deciding How to Vote on the Car Insurance Initiatives

November 06, 1988

As Tuesday rolls around the corner, the media are focusing on the insurance initiatives. Some purport to give a no-nonsense, clear analysis of each of the propositions. Good luck. In reality, the issues are complex, and long-term benefits are certainly subject to question.

The God-awful Proposition 103 leads the packs, but there are still a large number of undecided voters. What if they decided to gang up on the state Legislature, vote No on everything and demand their representatives do what they were elected to do?

Before talks between the insurers and the trial lawyers broke down, there were some very good proposals on the table. The sticking point was the no-fault issue. If these two groups could reach an agreement with the approval of at least some of the consumer groups, a legislative solution would be at hand.

At the core of the proposals we made just less than a year ago were a few key points. One point of focus was on the fraud problem. Just for fun, guess the amount of claim dollars paid out for soft tissue-whiplash injuries that would heal just as well with a person taking warm baths, or balancing a peanut on their nose for that matter, as opposed to hot packs, ultrasound and diathermy. We can guarantee you, the figure is staggering.

We suggest that automobile accident cases that involve non-serious injuries be submitted to binding arbitration in front of a judge within six months of the accident, assuming the plaintiff fully cooperates with the insurance company's investigation. This combines the benefit of no-fault, but preserves the fault concept.

Finally, we suggest that the collateral source rule be abolished. This would eliminate double payment (which guess who pays for?) and reduces, to some extent, the incentive to overtreat.

If No votes prevail, we suggest it would be a time for those concerned to seize the initiative and make some meaningful, well-thought out, long-term changes.

D. MICHAEL BUSH

Long Beach

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