Proposed vehicle insurance changes rejected


Minnesotans driving without insurance should be limited in the money they could receive in damages if they are involved in a driving incident.

That is the premise behind HF730, sponsored by Rep. Pat Mazorol (R-Bloomington). However, the bulk of the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee disagreed with his idea, voting 15-1 against the bill. Rep. Mark Murdock (R-Ottertail) cast the lone yes vote. It was passed last session by the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee.

In addition to increasing the minimum penalty for driving without motor vehicle insurance from $200 to $600, Mazorol said the bill would limit civil remedies for non-insured drivers who are injured in an accident.

“It limits it so that non-economic damages — that is those damages that are not strictly out-of-pocket type of expenses, commonly known as the pain-and-suffering-type damages — are not available for a claimant in one of three circumstances: if they are convicted of alcohol or a controlled substance impairment at the time of  the accident, if they are the owner of an uninsured vehicle that is involved in the accident or if they’re operating a vehicle involved in the accident without having appropriate insurance,” Mazorol said. An exception would be provided if someone were injured by a drunken driver. The bill does not take into account comparative negligence.

Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls) and Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) expressed concern about someone who is inadvertently late with an insurance payment and, as a result, would have no recourse if they are injured. Morrow unsuccessfully offered an amendment to exempt such people.

“We’re looking for the people that are not participating in the system,” Mazorol said.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier (DFL-Duluth) said the bill disproportionately affects people struggling to get by and must choose to pay car insurance or things like rent or the electric bill. “I don’t see any justice in this,” he said.

It is estimated that 500,000 drivers are driving in Minnesota sans insurance.

“This bill attempts to create a connection between two things which shouldn’t be connected,” said Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Savage). “Whether I’m breaking the law by not having insurance shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not I’m injured because somebody blew a stop sign.”

A companion, SF243, sponsored by Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Brainerd), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.