Last week, the Virginia Senate approved a bill that is little more than a solution in search of a problem. Sen. Chap Petersen’s SB 1117 suggests that insurance companies have been acting in “bad faith” when it comes to insurance claims that include uninsured and underinsured motorists.
However, the Bureau of Insurance indicates they have received just two uninsured/underinsured motorist complaints between February 2017 and today. Two. Even Sen. Petersen admits the bill will only affect a tiny number of cases.
Not only that, but these so-called “good faith” provisions that are included in the bill have such vague language that the only individuals who may truly benefit are trial lawyers. SB 1117 would add language in the case that an insurer “refuses a reasonable settlement demand,” but what defines the term “reasonable?” Where does that “reasonable” threshold lie?
In addition, the bill adds language holding insurance companies to a definition of when “the insurer knows or should have known” that the motorist is potentially liable. Again, how are we to adjudicate on a basis of something impossible to prove? But guess who would love to argue those thresholds. That’s right, trial lawyers.
What would happen if Sen. Petersen’s bill passes? We already know it would impact very few current cases; but it may give lawyers incentive to file additional cases. More litigation only leads to increased costs and higher premiums.
If SB 1117 passes, no one wins. We must ensure the House of Delegates doesn’t repeat the Senate’s mistake.
Robert N. Bradshaw Jr.