Guest column: New legislation makes sure auto insurance consumers get a fair deal

by Robert Kraig
October 20, 2009

Some insurance companies are sending out notices to consumers trying to blame the Legislature for making pro-consumer changes and telling them this will raise rates. You might wonder what the big deal is this year, since they raise rates almost every year anyway.

Blaming the Legislature for increasing rates is simply ridiculous. Increasing insurance rates are almost as certain as death and taxes.

Most of us who drive already carry auto insurance. According to industry figures, around 80 percent or more already carry coverage that is greater than the new minimum limits the Legislature updated for the first time since 1982. Those legislative changes contained in the state budget passed this summer should not affect rates.

The Legislature took bold steps to stand up for consumers against deceptive practices. It eliminated many provisions insurance companies had put in place to deny thousands of claims. The new legislation makes sure consumers actually will get what they pay for.

Now when consumers buy $100,000 of underinsured motorist coverage, they will actually get that amount, rather than having the other driver's policy limits deducted from it. Legislators recognized that if insurance is to work best, Wisconsin drivers need to accept responsibility by making sure they have insurance at a reasonable level to reflect today's medical and property costs. The Legislature should be commended.

Insurance companies are just upset that they don't get to make all the rules anymore. They want to take your money and then create a complicated set of loopholes designed to limit your access to the coverage you pay for.

The insurance industry likes to attack trial lawyers because they know the only place accident victims can make the insurance companies honor their policies is in court. If insurance were working for everyone, there would not be more than 60,000 insurance company complaints in Wisconsin over the past decade, far more than any other business.

If you feel that your insurance company is unfairly raising your rates, just shop around. Independent consumer advocates have generally found that shopping for auto insurance at renewal time can result in savings of 15 to 40 percent. If you are a diligent consumer and shop around, many insurance companies are willing to win your business by giving you the coverage you deserve at a fair price.

Robert Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Web site www.citizenactionwi.org.

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