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Did the 'triple damages' law result in higher premiums?

Three years ago Washington voters upheld the Insurance Fair Conduct Act. It allows triple damages when insurance companies are found to have unfairly denied a claim. At the time, the insurance industry warned premiums would skyrocket and lawyers would get rich. Has that happened?

The law could have been called the "Ethel Adams Act."  She was an innocent driver plowed into, critically injured and then denied compensation by an insurance company. 

Today, a victim in Washington like Adams could potentially win triple damages against an insurance company for wrongly denying a claim. Since the law, known as IFCA, took effect, an estimated 2,500 legal claims have been filed. But, it’s believed, only one actual triple damage judgment awarded, and it was not of the multi-million dollar variety.

Nonetheless, insurance industry attorney Karen Weaver of Seattle argues there should be caps on the triple damages.

“I think IFCA contributes to a difficult environment in this state and I am aware of insurance companies who would like to write more in this state and they look at the statute and they say ‘we can’t undertake that risk,’” said Weaver.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys respond that the law is working and note that insurance premiums have not skyrocketed. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.