The Central Valley Business Times reports that a consumer fraud investigation of Mercury Insurance, sponsor of Proposition17, by the Department of Insurance has revealed that the insurance company has disregarded California’s consumer protection statute and overcharged consumers for over 15 year.
Under California law, all automobile drivers must carry insurance. Minimum insurance requirement include $15,000 per injury or death per accident and $5,000 for property damage. Where a person has been in a previous accident, premiums may substantially increase.
Drivers in the Central Valley and throughout California who have sought car insurance from Mercury may have been subject to fraudulent activities including the denial of coverage of drivers in certain occupations, failure to consistently apply insurance premiums when they were due, resulting in overcharges, and failure to collect the appropriate information regarding previous accidents to ensure accurate fees were charged.
Ironically, Mercury Insurance is now sponsoring Proposition 17, promising it will lower car insurance premiums by offering a discount to new customers who switch from one insurer to another. Although Proposition 17 allows for “continuous coverage” in switching insurance company it would also allow insurance companies to substantially increase rates for drivers who’s insurance has lapsed for any reason, such as a prolonged absence due to military service, hospitalization from a car accident, or those who can’t simply can’t afford the premiums for a period of time.
Many critics point out that Mercury’s message in support of Proposition 17 is deceptive. Not only did it pay $2.2 million to gather the signatures necessary to have the measure placed on the ballot, but it also seeks to legalize some of the practices Mercury has been fined for – such as canceling policies and denying driver’s favorable rates.
The costs of car insurance are high enough. As a California automobile accident attorney, I’ve seen first hand the importance of maintaining adequate car insurance. Adding additional fees to obtaining insurance will only make it more and more difficult for California and Central Valley drivers to obtain insurance, making the costs to those who suffer serious injuries in car accidents even higher.