Modernizing Minimum Insurance Coverage

We recently concluded a case for a vehicle crash client who had suffered a broken hip which required surgery to fix.  She had been injured in a crash while she was a passenger on a motorcycle.  Her medical bills alone totaled $75,000.00.  The evidence clearly established that the motorcyclist, after turning right on to a road from an intersecting street, crashed into a pickup truck which was over the center of the roadway and in the motorcyclist’s travel lane.  It has been said that there is a prejudice against motorcyclists.  Well, the young female investigating police officer, who spoke with the young man in the truck at length at the scene but not the grey-bearded biker, somehow concluded that it must have been the biker’s fault.  The truck’s insurance adjuster latched on to that.  With some persistence after filing suit, we were eventually successful in getting through to a more rational mind up the insurance company’s food chain, and they accepted liability.  Unfortunately, however, our client’s right to recover fairly for her losses then ran into a larger obstacle in its path.

Under New Hampshire law, if you buy car insurance today, it can be as low as $25,000.00.  That is a 1981 law.  In 1981, gas was $1.38 a gallon, the median income of a family of four in New Hampshire was $25,332.00, and the median price of a new home was $83,000.00.  Today, gas is nearly $4.00 a gallon, the median income for a family of four in 2009 was $93,186.00 and $83,000.00 might get you an empty building lot.  We all know what has happened to the cost of medical care over that time.  If people on New Hampshire’s roads today are to have protection that our law provided to them 30 years ago, our law on minimum insurance coverage needs to be modernized.

The asset-less driver who caused our client’s crash had only $25,000.00 in insurance.  The truck driver’s insurance company quickly coughed up the $25,000.00, and I am sure was delighted by the fact that under New Hampshire law, it could demand a premium yet have such minimal responsibility.

Should the Legislature turn its energies from things such as fighting about whether they can carry guns while in session, maybe some effort could be directed to attending to victims of the negligent drivers on our roadways.  Of course, such an initiative would be sure to get the attention of the insurance lobbyists.

By:  Peter G. Webb

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