Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Voters in Washington State Cast their Ballots for Consumer Rights

All eyes were on the state of Washington yesterday. Consumer advocates around the nation waited anxiously as voters turned out to voice their opinions by casting ballots on Referendum 67. It seems that Washington, like many other places, has had problems with insurance companies denying or delaying fair and just claims. The referendum allowed the people to decide what should happen.

Referendum 67 basically stated that if an insurer, acting in bad faith, unreasonably denies a legitimate claim, that insurer could be liable for up to triple the amount of damages. An article in today’s Seattle Times said that the Insurance Industry spent a record-breaking $11,400,000 in an attempt to defeat the referendum. More than half of that amount came from the usual suspects-- State Farm, Farmers Group, Safeco Insurance and Allstate Insurance.

Trial Lawyers were among the Consumer Advocates supporting the bill. “Trial lawyers argued the new law would help level the playing field between consumers and insurance companies. They said that under present law, which only allows consumers to sue for actual damages, it benefits companies to lowball and drag out claims.”

Apparently the consumers agreed. Roughly 60% of voters approved Referendum 67. It would seem that unscrupulous business practices by insurance companies do indeed have consequences.

The Insurance Lobby has vowed to attempt to overturn the voice of the people in their next legislative session. But for now, the people of Washington State should enjoy their victory. The people have cast their ballots—and the rights of consumers have emerged victorious.

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