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Idaho Senate Axes a Bill Allowing Lawyers to Serve Auto Insurance Cos. With Notification of Lawsuits

Mar 1, 2007

By Volkert, Lora

The Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee axed a bill that would have allowed attorneys to serve auto insurance companies with notification of their clients' lawsuits if defendants in the suits cannot be found. The insurers would have then served the lawsuit to their clients.

Sen. Mike Burkett, D-Boise, said the bill would only apply to auto accident cases in which the prosecuting attorney cannot find the defendant. "We're talking about the difficult cases," he said. "Someone is in Argentina. You don't know where they are. They had an accident in Idaho and they're gone."

Insurance companies would not be required to accept service of the lawsuit, Burkett said.

Currently, the Secretary of State is served with lawsuit notifications and sends them out by registered mail, Burkett said. They are often returned as unreceived.

If the Secretary of State can't send out the letter because the attorney doesn't have a current address, the attorney has to get a court order to serve the notice of the lawsuit through a public notice advertisement in a newspaper, according to attorney Kurt Holzer. But it has to be in the publication the defendant is most likely to receive.

For one case Holzer was involved in, that was the Army Times, and the cost would have been $4,000 if the defendant's mother hadn't agreed to serve the suit to her son. The $4,000 would have made it cost-prohibitive to pursue the lawsuit, he said, and it never would have been resolved.

Allyn Dingel, an attorney representing insurance firms, argued that the bill was unworkable.

"People think these accidents get reported to insurance carriers all the time," he said. "They don't."

Even in cases that were reported to the insurance firm, sometimes lawsuits aren't filed until a year and a half later, Dingel said. By that time, the defendant could have moved to another state and changed insurance carriers. "This person is off the planet Earth for them," he said.

(Copyright 2007 Dolan Media Newswires)

(c) 2007 Idaho Business Review, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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