The Capital Times: Abrahamson stands up for individual rights

by Mark Thomsen
February 15, 2009

When it comes to standing up for the rights of every Wisconsin citizen, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson is independent, hardworking and, above all else, fair.

When insurance companies denied coverage to people who were hit by drivers with little or no insurance, Abrahamson stood for and wrote in 2002 in the decision State Farm v. Gillette, "We have stated that the purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to compensate the victim of an underinsured motorist's negligence where the third party's liability limits are not adequate to fully compensate the victim for his or her injuries."

Abrahamson believes that if you are in an accident with an underinsured motorist, you should be able to use the insurance coverage that you purchased to cover your losses and pay for your medical bills if the other person responsible for the collision does not have enough insurance to pay for all your losses. The auto insurance industry disagrees. They believe that in order to maximize their profits, they should be able to deduct the amount of the wrongdoer's liability coverage from the amount of your own underinsured motorist coverage you purchased for your own protection!

For example, if you are injured in an accident that was the fault of a drunken driver who had $50,000 in liability coverage while you purchased $150,000 in underinsured motorist coverage to protect yourself, you would expect that there would be $200,000 in total insurance coverage available to pay for your losses and medical bills. Under the auto insurance industry math you would only have $150,000 in total coverage because they would deduct the other driver's $50,000 policy limit from your $150,000 underinsured motorist coverage. In essence the auto insurance industry wants to never pay you all the coverage that you actually paid for to do the right thing and protect your family.

Chief Justice Abrahamson understands that the purpose of buying insurance coverage in the first place is to make sure that you and your family are protected in the event of an accident caused by someone else. The primary purpose of auto liability insurance is to protect people and property, not to increase the profit margin for the insurance industry.

At a time when corporate greed and corruption are at all-time highs, it is refreshing to know that our chief justice believes that the rights of individual people are just as important as the rights of any corporation or the auto insurance industry.

That's just one reason why we should return Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to the Supreme Court on April 7.

Mark Thomsen is president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice.

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