NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - With a 69-30 vote, House Bill 372 advances again as it passes the House. The vote came after nearly 2 hours of questioning and testimony on the House floor.
River Ridge Rep. Kirk Talbot worked with a task force in creating the bill after a series of FOX 8 investigations. The final bill includes multiple points that would help address factors contributing to high insurance costs in the state.
“There’s no law that says they have to write insurance, there’s no law that says they have to come to Louisiana. Again, they have to make a profit,” said Rep. Mike Huval.
Legislators were quick to point out Talbot’s bill does not mandate lower rates, but it does allow the Department of Insurance to review insurance companies’ rates and make adjustments. The bill also extends the period of time where a lawsuit can be filed from one year to two years
“I think that’s one of the main causes why this state’s called the judicial hellhole because we have to file suit instead of working it out over a two-year period when there are damages,” said Rep. Patrick Connick.
The bill also reduces the threshold that would trigger a jury trial. Currently, the jury threshold in the state of Louisiana is $50,000. That means a judge will decide any case below that, and a jury takes any case above that amount. Talbot hopes in reducing the jury threshold to $5,000, it will align Louisiana with other states across the country and more cases will settle out of court.
“I think if you have a situation where you’re not being reasonable, I’ll take you to court and we’ll let a jury decide. I think it will help cases settle for a more reasonable amount,” said Talbot.
For many legislators, it was this jury threshold point that gave way to a lot of debate. There was even an amendment on the floor to put the jury threshold at $25,000. The amendment didn’t pass, but Talbot’s bill did. Now, the bill heads to the Senate for more debate.
Talbot said multiple times that he does not believe this bill will immediately reduce rates but make Louisiana more competitive to insurance companies to help drive down rates.
If signed into law, the bill would go into effect January 2020.
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