Wash. Commissioner Testifies on Auto Legislation Involving Ethel Adams

January 11, 2006

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler was to testify on commissioner request legislation this week designed to prevent what happened to Ethel Adams last March from happening to any other Washington insurance consumer. Adams was unable to attend the hearing due to her injuries, but she was to have someone testify on her behalf.

Adams was injured in an automobile accident last March when her car was hit during a reported intentional act of road rage by Michael R. Testa. Her case received unprecedented public outcry. Adams sought coverage under her uninsured motorist coverage but her insurance company denied her claim. Her company believed that because Mr. Testa intentionally caused the accident, her coverage did not apply.

“Ethel Adams’ insurance carrier tried to apply an imaginative interpretation of the law to keep from paying her claim,” said Kreidler. “We’ve named this bill in her honor with the hope that no other innocent insured will have to go through the nightmare Ethel experienced. I commend Representative Mark Ericks and Senator Jean Berkey for their sponsorship.”

Kreidler is proposing a one-paragraph addition to the existing uninsured motorist law. The change defines “accident” as an occurrence that is unexpected and unintended from the standpoint of the person who is insured. If an insurer wants to deny coverage, the burden of proof is on the company to demonstrate that the covered person intended to cause the damage.

“Most people assume they know what the word “accident” means,” Kreidler added. “They also believe if they pay their insurance premiums they will have coverage in their time of need. I believe the current law is clear, but this bill will make certain that no insurance carrier pulls a similar stunt in the future.”

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