BATON ROUGE – For a fourth straight year in a row, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says residents in Louisiana can expect increases in their auto premiums. In some cases, it may be a double-digit increase.
The increases can be blamed on a host of factors that ultimately boil down to the auto insurance industry not being a profitable business right now.
Lou Fey is the President of the Professional Insurance Agents of Louisiana and Chairman of the State Property Casualty Commission.
“Our report to the Governor said the auto insurance market is in crisis,” Fey said. “It’s not like it’s not noticed by anybody. We also know what would fix it, but it’s getting the legislature to do that.”
Fey said currently, Louisiana is the second most expensive state for auto insurance in the nation. Michigan is number one.
“You’ve got technology making cars safer, and accident avoidance systems, lane assist, all those kind of things,” Fey said. “You should see rates going down, but we are seeing them going up due to distracted driving.”
Fey believes rates are going up due to distracted driving and the need for tort reform in Louisiana. According to statistics from the National Highway Safety Commission, there were 3,331 deaths across the nation last year due to distracted driving. It’s why professionals are proposing a bill in the legislature that would make it illegal to hold your phone in your car unless you’re using hands-free technology.
“It bans the handheld manipulation of portable electronic devices while the car is in motion by the driver,” Fey said. “In other words, put the cell phone down.”
All auto insurance increases must be approved by Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon. Donelon said before an increase is granted, a team of actuaries analyze numbers submitted by the insurance companies. According to Donelon, very seldom does his office approve the hikes his insurance companies request.
“We can politically suppress rates and just say ‘no’ and ignore the numbers and justification that our staff says is legitimate,” Donelon said. “We can do that, and it has been done in the past, and they can leave our state.”
In the past two years, five companies have left due to the unprofitability of the auto insurance industry here: 21st Century North America Insurance Company (part of the Farmers Insurance group) (2016/2017), ACCC Insurance Company (2017/2018), Auto Club Family Insurance Company (2015/2016), Direct General Insurance Company of Louisiana (2018) and Equity Insurance Company (2017).
Donelon said more companies writing policies increases competition.
Nancy Taylor is a Baton Rouge driver who received sticker shock when she received her renewal in the mail. Her policy increased nearly $300 for six months. Taylor was involved in a minor fender bender that caused no damage to either vehicle, but the driver of the car she tapped claimed bodily injury. Her accident was forgiven and not reflected as part of her $300 increase. However, she said her insurance company paid the person in that minor crash $2,500.
“I think there needs to be a database whereby if you get into an accident and collect insurance money, your license gets flagged,” Taylor said. “If you have another accident, that adjuster can go online and see how often they collect on other insurance companies policies and it could be a flag for insurance fraud.”
Taylor said reforms need to be made so people aren’t saddled with the exorbitant bills.
According to Commissioner Donelon, Louisiana is considered a working poor state. About half of the drivers on the road are carrying the basic liability coverage just to drive.