Washington’s Ethel Adams Legislation Takes Effect

June 15, 2006

Legislation changing the uninsured mootorist law in Washington that is named in honor of accident victim Ethel Adams has taken effect.

Adams was injured in an automobile accident in 2005 when her car was hit during an intentional act of road rage by Michael R. Testa. She sought coverage under her uninsured motorist coverage but her insurance company denied her claim. Adam’s insurer believed that because Testa intentionally caused the accident, her coverage did not apply. The injustice of Adam’s case received unprecedented public outcry.

“Consumers have a right to trust that if they pay their premium, they will be taken care of by their insurance company if they’re involved in an accident,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “And most people assume they know what the word accident means. This new law will make certain no insurance company pulls a similar stunt in the future.”

The new law adds a paragraph 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 insurance company wants to deny coverage, the burden of proof is on the company to demonstrate that the covered person intended to cause the damage.

“Ethel Adams’ insurance carrier tried to apply an imaginative interpretation of the law to keep from paying her claim,” Kreidler added. “This new law bears her name with the hope that no other innocent insured will have to go through the nightmare Ethel experienced.”

The law was sponsored by Rep. Mark Ericks and Sen. Jean Berkey.

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