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Insurers Prepare for A Wide Range of Legislative Issues in Delaware

Source: PC

Posted on 13 Jan 2010

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The Delaware General Assembly convened on Tuesday with budget and financial concerns at the top of a busy legislative agenda that also includes several issues that could impact the property-casualty insurance industry, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“The state’s economy and budget are front and center for lawmakers but we also expect them to address property casualty insurance issues such as affiliate transfers, consumer protection regulation, workers compensation and uninsured motorists coverage as they start the second year of the two-year session,” said Richard Stokes, Counsel, state government affairs for PCI.

One of the bills on the legislative agenda for 2010 is HB 140, which provides that an automobile insurance policyholder transferred between authorized insurers within the same insurance group is not considered a cancellation or nonrenewal if the premium is not increased and coverage is not reduced. According to the legislation, the policyholder must be notified of the transfer in writing. This legislation is supported by PCI and similar bills have passed in other states. The House unanimously passed HB 140 on May 12, 2009 but it failed to pass the Senate before the General Assembly recessed in July.

PCI and the business community are working together to oppose HB 247, legislation that would expand the authority and administrative powers of the Consumer Protection Unit of the state’s Department of Justice to include regulation of the property casualty insurance industry.

“While lawmakers did not advance this legislation, which was introduced just before lawmakers recessed for the summer, we expect it to be an issue in 2010,” said Stokes. “This legislation unnecessarily sweeps insurance regulation into the Department of Justice. We oppose the legislation because the property casualty insurance industry is already regulated by the Department of Insurance which has its own consumer services division. Particularly during a time of tight budgets, the state can’t afford to have agencies perform duplicate functions.”

PCI is also opposing a bill (HB 255) introduced shortly before the legislative recess that would allow a party in a motor vehicle collision to access their own underinsured motorists insurance benefits in circumstances where the damages are greater than the amount of the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits.

“The trial bar is seeking to once again expand coverage beyond what is allowed by the insurance contract,” said Stokes. “This bill seeks to change the current case law that prohibits a plaintiff from collecting from his or her underinsured motorists coverage when the other party has the same limits of liability coverage. The intent of underinsurance coverage is to make up the difference if the other party’s carries less insurance than you have purchased. It is only designed to make up the difference up to limits of your policy.”

Auto safety issues such as the prohibition on texting while driving or red light camera violations are expected to be considered this year.

On regulatory matters, PCI is an active member of the insurance department’s working group on accident response fees which are sometimes called “accident taxes.” Over the past two years nine states have banned local governments from charging fees when police or fire department personnel respond to a traffic accident. “As a taxpaying citizen, it is not unreasonable to expect local police and fire departments to respond to an automobile accident without having to pay extra for this service,” said Stokes.