Debate heats up over insurance rates

RALEIGH The debate is over the way accident insurance claims are dealt with in North Carolina.

Currently, the way the system works is if someone is in an accident and are found to be even a little bit at fault, they get nothing.

A proposed new law would change that, but experts say insurance rates would likely go up.

The Non-Partisan North Carolina Rate Bureau predicts a 3 to 16 percent jump in auto insurance rates and possible jumps for business and homeowner insurance as well.

The Insurance Federation of North Carolina is lobbying against the bill.

'"We really feel that this is the wrong time for North Carolinians to be pulling more money out of their household budgets," said Jennifer Cohen with the Insurance Federation of North Carolina.

But advocates say a change is long overdue. They say insurance rates might not go up, pointing to other states that have made similar changes and haven't seen much difference.

"What we've seen in most places is that this leads to more fair settlements, quicker resolution of cases," Head of the North Carolina Trial Lawyers Association Dave Pishko said.

More insurance claims would mean more business for them, but Pishko says there's a bigger issue at play --fairness.

"If you're 1 percent at fault, you recover nothing under our system, even though the person who caused the accident may be 99 percent at fault," Pishko said.

Raleigh business owner Taz Zarca says now is not the time to raise the cost of anything, let alone insurance rates.

"We are going through hard times, the whole economy is going bad," he said. "How somebody with five or six policies is going to afford a raise in five, six policies."

Officials say the issue could be taken up in the next few days.

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