1

SB 58: Insurers couldn’t use zero-dollar claims against drivers

Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Supporters of Senate Bill 58 said Thursday that they’re scared to report damages covered under their insurance policies because they might be disqualified from renewing those policies.

The bill would make it so that zero-dollar claims, which do not pay out any money to the insured, would not be allowed to count against someone for their insurance.

Bruce MacIntyre, lobbyist for the Billings Chamber of Commerce, said in the past year he’s cracked his windshield twice because of hail and rocks from the road.

“I don’t think I’m going to notify my insurance company. I’m going to pay to put a new windshield in,” MacIntyre said.

Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings, said some insurance companies consider a phone call a zero-dollar claim.

“At some point you might have a real claim and if the game is to get you off the books before that happens, I’m not sure if I have a lot of sympathy for that,” McNally said.

Gregory Van Horssen, State Farm Insurance lobbyist, opposed the bill.

“We should be able to get out of contracts if we choose to get out of contracts, it is contract law,” Van Horssen said.

Van Horssen said his organization is against the bill in its current form, but is willing to work with McNally to find a solution to the problem. He said insurance companies try to keep premiums low by using claim information.

“And we try to laser focus that risk exposure based upon information that we can gather, all information that we can gather,” Van Horssen said.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 43-7 vote. This was the House Business and Labor’s first hearing of the bill.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.