Uninsured drivers: “no pay, no play”

by Walter Olson on January 13, 2014

At least ten states have now adopted variations on the idea that motorists who unlawfully drive without insurance should give up at least some of their right to sue for pain and suffering in a later accident. Missouri has become the latest, its legislature overriding a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Organized insurers have backed the idea, which one recent study says can reduce the number of drivers on the road without insurance. It should be noted that trial lawyers’ collective interest in the issue is subject to some ambiguity: while they will recover less in a given lawsuit if their uninsured-motorist client cannot sue for pain and suffering, a rise in the share of drivers that are insured improves their chances of recovering funds in cases generally. [Insurance Journal, Billy Smith/Wolters Kluwer Compliance Corner, PCIAA, Susan Ladika/CarInsurance.com]

{ 5 comments }

1 nl7 01.13.14 at 11:45 am

Not a bad idea, but I’m not sure it will have much salience on the decision to drive uninsured. My own thought process is that the enforcement and ticketing is more imposing and much more likely to happen than the possibility of a bad accident without either legal recourse or insurance recourse.

The flawed tort system aside, this strikes me as a move to assist insurers – both to protect them from some suits and to encourage people to use the insurers’ already mandatory product. This is a rather blunt instrument to partially accommodate for the shortcomings of tort suits. And to the extent that the tort suit does work as advertised, it’s unfair to pile exclusion from the legal system on top of the unfree requirement of driving insurance.

2 Richard 01.13.14 at 6:35 pm

One of the realities of life is that recovering damages from an uninsured driver is significantly more difficult than from an insured driver. An uninsured driver reaps the benefits of others purchasing insurance if he is injured, but refuses to provide the same protection to those he might injure. Arguably, the uninsured driver is recovering what he believes others should be able to recover if he injures them.

3 Ron Miller 01.17.14 at 3:24 pm

I see traces of wisdom here but I don’t like it. It is punitive and it is not a proportional punishment. Are we really going to give the drunk protection from liability when he paralyses someone he hits who was driving responsibly? Maybe if you wanted to discount the value of his claim by the state minimum… well, I wouldn’t support that but I would at least appreciate the logic. This is a really good law until you think about if for more than 3 seconds. Then it gets dumb.

Do libertarians generally agree with the idea of mandatory insurance in the first place? I would think punishing someone for not having insurance who was acting in a safe manner would be the opposite of the libertarian world view.

4 DC 01.17.14 at 6:43 pm

Responding to NL7, I’d agree to a certain extent. But, I work in the insurance industry, and frankly, people who don’t carry insurance just aren’t going to do it whether they give up tort rights or not. Many argue they don’t have the money to pay premiums, some just take the risk, etc. Our standing joke is that “half of Indiana is uninsured, and they keep managing to hit our insureds”. If someone is uninsured, that individual typically doesn’t have any resources anyway. The best we can often do is obtain a judgment and get their license pulled. They just keep driving anyway. It’s the harmed party that eats the cost (the insured loses on the deductible, the carrier loses on subrogating damages) when they shouldn’t be. How is it going to get enforced? When the accident happens or the individual gets pulled by law enforcement for valid reasons. And that’s just Vegas odds.

5 Vern Dennis 01.17.14 at 8:47 pm

Whether or not it would have an effect on uninsured drivers’ behavior is open to question, but it would at least punish some of them, and that’s a good thing, no matter how you slice it.

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