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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

Mandatory insurance clause removed

BY BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

COLUMBUS - In a move designed to stabilize premiums for commercial auto insurance, Governor Taft yesterday signed a bill into law that removes the requirement that insurance companies offer uninsured-underinsured coverage when selling policies.

Legislators said the law, which takes effect in 90 days, is needed because of two state Supreme Court decisions that expanded the scope of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Those cases extended coverage to a company employee who was killed in his wife's car when he wasn't working, and to an employee's son who was injured by an uninsured motorist. The decisions allowed family members of people killed in car accidents to collect damages through the victim's corporate insurance policies.

The Ohio Insurance Institute estimated the claims eventually could run as high as $1.5 billion.

The insurance industry said companies will continue to offer coverage for uninsured motorists, but the change in state law should prevent the state Supreme Court from expanding the scope of uninsured and underinsured coverage.

Roger Geiger, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, said the law will provide “tremendous relief to Ohio's small business community who realized an average 110 percent increase in liability insurance premiums.”

“Our state's insurance market is now considered to be one of the worst in the nation because of the court's ruling on uninsured and underinsured coverage,” said the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Scott Nein (R., Middletown). “I believe this step we're taking will help restore Ohio's reputation of being a healthy and affordable insurance marketplace.”

But the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers has said Ohio consumers may lose an important protection when the law takes effect.

“In their rush to reverse recent Supreme Court decisions, big insurance companies have simply gone too far,” said Steve Collier, president of the lawyers' group.



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