Auto liability rates for many Houston drivers have been slashed nearly a third since the passage of a slew of lawsuit reforms three and one-half years ago.
Changes in the law and public sentiment have produced dramatic decreases in bodily injury and property damage claims here. This has caused liability rates to fall faster in Houston than other parts of the state, according to figures compiled by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. This was the Insurance Commissioner's fourth annual review.
“Last year lawsuit reform savings for Texas drivers trickled in,” said Jon Opelt, director of Houston CALA. “ This year the spigot is open. Savings have been substantial and should increase in the coming year."
Indeed, major auto insurers are now charging Houston drivers premiums 4 to 16 percent below the state’s benchmark rate. Compare that to just a year ago when seventy percent of all Texas drivers paid rates
the benchmark, said Opelt.
Reflecting a major improvement in loss experience, several of the state's largest auto insurers have recently issued refunds or dividend checks to their policyholders.
In October, then-Insurance Commissioner Elton Bomer ordered additional cuts on 22 lines of insurance. The new rate reductions apply to liability policies written or renewed after January 1, 1999.
The projected savings for 1999 are estimated at nearly $700 million, pushing tort reform savings since 1996 to more than $2.2 billion. This was the Insurance Commissionerís fourth annual review since a law was enacted in 1995 requiring public hearings and ordering prospective rate cuts for liability coverage affected by tort-law changes.
This year's lawsuit reform rate cuts will be the deepest yet with the bulk of the savings occurring in private passenger and commercial auto, medical malpractice and general liability policies.
As a result of the order, the bodily injury portion of private passenger auto rates will be 9.2 percent lower in 1999.
The following rate reduction factors will be applied for policies written or renewed after January 1, 1999:
Private Passenger Auto Bodily Injury
Commercial Auto Bodily Injury
Medical Malpractice (Doctors)
The preceeding charts compare current auto liability rates to prevailing rates before the passage of lawsuit reform.