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Michael D'Amico Testifies About State Legislation on Car Insurance Minimums, Autonomous Vehicles

Posted on behalf of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Feb 27, 2017 in Personal Injury

Mike D'Amico picturePartner Michael D'Amico recently testified before state legislators about proposals to raise minimum mandatory auto insurance limits and to require the State of Connecticut to move at a thoughtful pace when deciding under what conditions highly autonomous vehicles (“robot cars”) may be operated on Connecticut roads to assure the safety of the motoring public.

D'Amico offered testimony on behalf of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association (CTLA), of which he is currently the President.

The CTLA is a nonprofit legal association dedicated to preserving individual rights within the justice system in order to create and maintain a more just society. It works to ensure that the justice system works for all and that wrongdoers are held accountable for their actions.

Raising Insurance Minimums

D'Amico offered support for Raised Bill 808 before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, which would raise car insurance minimums if passed.

D'Amico noted that the minimums have not been raised since 1971, 46 years ago. Since then, drivers have been required to have coverage for $20,000 per person and $40,000 per crash no matter how many people were involved in the crash. Drivers must also have $10,000 in coverage for property damage.

D'Amico cited several examples of how much prices have changed since these minimums were set. For example, a car cost an average of $3,742 in 1971, while the average cost of a car in 2016 was $21,881. That is a 485 percent increase.   

The CTLA supports the bill's proposed increase in mandatory minimums:

  • $50,000 per person
  • $100,000 per crash
  • $25,000 for property damage

The increases would benefit residents of urban areas the most because most crashes occur in the areas where they live.

Increasing the minimums could also provide a fiscal benefit to city governments and the state government because crash victims often need financial or medical assistance from the state or its municipalities. Raising the minimums allows these entities to recover more money.

Regulating Autonomous Vehicles in the State

D'Amico also testified before the Transportation Committee in conditional support of House Bill 5185, An Act Concerning Autonomous Vehicles.

The bill would amend Connecticut General Statutes for two purposes:

  • Allowing the use of autonomous cars for the purposes of testing
  • Requiring the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations about using these vehicles

According to D’Amico’s testimony, the CTLA:

  • Opposes the use of autonomous vehicles by the general public until the technology has been proven to be safe in the many different traffic environments that exist
  • Supports the testing of autonomous cars in designated safe areas by trained professionals
  • Supports studying how autonomous vehicles can increase mobility for the disabled, elderly, young and other individuals who are limited in their mobile abilities
  • Suggests consideration of the likely widespread socioeconomic consequences of widespread use of autonomous vehicles

The CTLA cited several concerns for autonomous vehicles, including:

  • The state should allow the use of autonomous cars in phases, with phase one used for testing.
  • Test drivers must be certified based on requirements from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Safety and Department of Transportation.
  • Manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle parts should not be immune from civil litigation for injuries to property or persons by autonomous vehicles.
  • Manufacturers of autonomous vehicles should carry sufficient insurance if these vehicles cause injuries or property damage ($5,000,000 per person and $25,000,000 for each crash).
  • Autonomous vehicles should have "black box" recordings that are preserved for the statute of limitations. These recordings should be in a non-editable format.
  • Civil litigation for injuries or property damage from autonomous vehicles should be handled in state courts in Connecticut.
  • Courts should apply a standard of strict liability for injuries and property damage caused by autonomous cars based on a violation of the rules of the road.
  • Mandatory arbitration should be prohibited.
  • The state should establish an Autonomous Vehicle Oversight Committee to monitor the development of autonomous vehicle technology along with public safety considerations. The CTLA should have one member in the committee. 

As with all personal injury lawyers that are members of the CTLA, D'Amico & Pettinicchi hopes that the testimony about these two legislative proposals will receive strong consideration by state legislators.

As advocates for the injured, we are committed to defending the rights of individuals throughout Connecticut.