Agreement Between New York State Trial Lawyers and Auto Insurance Companies Will Expedite Resolution of Disputes; The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies Spearheads Discussions With the Trial Bar

Earlier this week, the New York State legislature passed a bill that would put “file and serve” requirements into lower courts where they currently do not exist. If signed into law by the Governor, the bill will also institute an “expedited hearing” process in situations where no-fault automobile insurance disputes exist.

File and serve is a practice currently followed in the state Supreme Court, commercial and small claims courts and requires that those bringing suit in the lower courts purchase an “index number” prior to the service of process. The fee for an index number is relatively small; it will not serve as barrier to individuals bringing legitimate issues to the courts.

This move, backed by insurance companies and the Trial Bar alike, is intended to reduce the number of frivolous suits brought to the lower courts, causing the court dockets to clog. These suits are brought primarily in automobile insurance no-fault cases and are brought by so-called “medical mills” that submit questionable auto insurance medical bills to be paid under New York State’s no-fault insurance system. Ironically, no-fault was instituted to reduce the number of lawsuits and to expedite the settling of auto insurance injury claims.

The expedited hearing process will provide New York drivers with faster answers to their questions about who pays by allowing a hearing to resolve the issue. These hearings will be particularly helpful in car crashes that occur in the course of employment or crashes involving drivers represented by several no-fault insurance carriers. While these situations are not common, today they are time intensive to resolve.

“This is the result of a cooperative effort between insurance companies and the New York State Trial Bar,” said Jim DeVito, New York auto product manager, Progressive. “It is a win for insurance companies because it will reduce the number of frivolous and sometimes fraudulent lawsuits. However, most importantly, it is a win for consumers because it should serve to reduce no-fault fraud and will provide accident victims and their representatives faster answers about which insurance companies are responsible for their claims.”

DeVito said: “We wish to thank the bill’s sponsors, Senate Judiciary Chair John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Assembly Judiciary Chair Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn).”

Organizations supporting the bill include: Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the New York County Lawyer’s Association–Joint Civil Court Committees, New York Public Interest Research Group, New York State Trial Lawyers Association, The Business Council of New York State, Inc., American Insurance Association, Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers Association of New York, New York First, New York Insurance Association, Inc., Professional Insurance Agents Association of New York, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, Chubb and Son, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Nationwide, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, The Robert Plan Corporation and State Farm Insurance.

The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, in business since 1937, ranks third in the nation for auto insurance based on premiums written and provides drivers with competitive rates and 24/7, in-person and online service. The products and services of the Progressive Direct Group of Insurance Companies are marketed directly to consumers by phone at 1-800-PROGRESSIVE and online at progressivedirect.com through the Progressive Direct(SM) brand. The Drive Group of Progressive Insurance Companies offers insurance through more than 30,000 independent insurance agencies that market their products and services through the Drive(SM) Insurance from Progressive brand. For more information about Drive Insurance, go to driveinsurance.com. The Common Shares of the Progressive Corporation, the Mayfield Village, Ohio-based holding company, are publicly traded at NYSE:PGR. More information can be found at progressive.com.