This past week, the Missouri Legislature voted to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of House Bill 339. That bill, euphemistically categorized as “no pay, no play” legislation, effectively limits the damages an injured driver could claim in an accident if that driver himself was uninsured, even when the accident was the fault of the other driver. Specifically, the injured uninsured driver could seek only his “economic” damages (medical expenses, property damages, wage losses) in a claim or suit against the other insured driver who caused the accident, but would be barred from seeking “non-economic damages (pain and suffering, etc.). This limitation would not apply to passengers in the uninsured driver’s car, to drivers whose insurance coverage was simply non-renewed within the past six months, nor in cases where the driver causing the accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is convicted of manslaughter or assault as a result of the accident.
HB 339 will now go into effect on October 11, 2013. Opponents argue that it is designed to benefit insurance companies, which normally pay the damages assessed in litigation against the drivers they insure. For example, if ABC Insurance Company insures a driver who injures another uninsured driver, it will only be exposed to pay the uninsured driver’s medical bills and automobile damages, but not any claim for disfigurement, scarring, emotional injuries, etc.. This bill effectively limits their financial exposure substantially. Moreover, the bill essentially encourages Missouri drivers to procure liability insurance, so that they don’t find themselves limited in the claims they may make. That also, it is argued, benefits insurance companies who will now sell more insurance. Conversely, bill proponents argue that it should encourage more Missourians to comply with existing law requiring all drivers to have insurance, and will put otherwise uninsured drivers in the position of being able to provide financial responsibility to injured persons when they are the at-fault driver.
In vetoing the legislation back in July, Governor Nixon called the legislation’s language “ambiguous” and stated that it insufficiently defined who actually met the definition of “uninsured”. This law will ultimately face legal challenges over its language and constitutional appropriateness. It is unclear how the appellate courts will interpret this law, but an on-going fight is a certainty. If nothing else, however, the passage of this law over Governor Nixon’s veto should illustrate the benefit of carrying automobile insurance in general and actually may encourage some otherwise uninsured drivers to “get covered”.
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