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"Good Faith" Supporters Seek Common Ground

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July 11, 2007

Backers of proposed state legislation to require insurance companies to promptly pay the full amount of legitimate claims say they'll try again next year, and they're working with opponents to find common ground. What's called the "good faith" bill didn't reach the governor's desk this session, but House sponsor Joe Atkins says he's trying to work out differences with insurance companies that oppose the plan.

“I've sent a letter to the insurance industry, asking them for their version. They said that they could live with some 'good faith' law. And, I've asked them to provide a version of the 'good faith' law that they could live with.”

Minnesota is one of only four states that doesn't have the requirement. One result, according to Atkins, is that a few companies refuse to pay or offer a lower settlement, forcing their customers to go through costly litigation to collect.

Atkins is sure he can compromise with insurance companies on the legislation. And, the bill will be back next session, one way or another because it's essential to the well-being of Minnesotans.

“If the insurance industry doesn't come up with something that they feel they can work with, I fully anticipate that we'll go forward anyway. Consumers need this protection. It's the kind of thing that allows a person with a hail damage claim, for example, just to be paid what they're owed, and not have to go through litigation.”

He has sent a letter to the Insurance Federation of Minnesota, asking the lobbying group to come up with suggestions for consumer protections that the industry could live with.

Minnesota Association for Justice spokesman Joe Crumley says "good faith" legislation is a basic consumer protection that needs to be on the books.

“Most insurance companies do comply with the contract. But, there are some that play games, knowing consumers have to hire a lawyer, at some expense to them, to force full payment on the policy. And, as a result, they go to court. They have to pay their own attorney's fees. Therefore, even if they win, they lose.”

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN