Group says no-fault more costly system;

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Mass. drivers pay extra $50 on average per policy, it says

The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)

As Massachusetts officials review the state’s auto insurance laws, a California advocacy group asserts that the state’s “no fault” system costs motorists here nearly $200 million a year – or an average of about $50 per policy.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights says drivers in no-fault states have paid an average of 19 percent more for their insurance premiums than drivers in states without such systems.

Under a no-fault system, all drivers are required to carry insurance for their own protection. When drivers are hurt in an accident, medical and related costs are covered by their own insurance company, regardless of who caused the accident.

Typically, no-fault insurance systems also limit a victim’s ability to sue a driver who injures them. In Massachusetts, the cost of an accident must exceed $2,000 before an injured driver can sue, but some observers say that threshold does little to prevent lawsuits, given the high cost of medical treatments.

FTCR, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based advocacy group – which was founded by Harvey Rosenfield, a Randolph native who led the charge to repeal California’s no-fault insurance laws – says at least three states that repealed their no-fault systems saw major decreases in premium costs. The group issued its report on the issue in Boston yesterday.

Carmen Balber, a spokeswoman for the group, said it highlighted Massachusetts because a task force of regulators and elected officials is meeting to review insurance laws in the Bay State.

Balber said no-fault insurance adds costs to the system because it encourages fraud. “People are simply encouraged to use their benefits to the max, because they’ve got a certain amount regardless,” she said.

Daniel Johnston, president of the Automobile Insurers Bureau, an industry group, said he agrees that the state’s no-fault provisions should be re-examined from time to time.

However, he disagreed that the provisions are to blame for Massachusetts’ high premiums.

“This is a 30-year-old argument,” he said. “The rates are higher in no-fault states because no-fault was brought into states with rates that were high to begin with.”

State Rep. Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, a member of the task force, said he did not know if the group would recommend eliminating or changing the state’s no-fault system.

Mariano said the task force is testing proposals by subjecting them to mathematical models, something that takes considerable time. The group hasn’t yet put changes to the state’s no-fault policies through those models, he said. The group is expected to issue recommendations to Gov. Mitt Romney in May.
Julie Jette may be reached at [email protected]

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