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Missouri: Governor Battles Legislature Over Uninsured Motorists
Governor and state representatives in Missouri disagree over allowing uninsured motorists to sue.

Jay Nixon
Should uninsured drivers involved in accidents be eligible for big-money lawsuit payouts? The state legislature says no, but the governor says yes. The battle between the two sides comes to a head on September 11 as lawmakers return for a veto override session.

In April, the state House voted 104-55 and the Senate 32-1 in favor of a measure that states a driver who gets behind the wheel without being properly insured waives his ability to sue for non-economic damages in the event of an accident. The bill provides an exception for filing such a lawsuit against a drunk driver or someone convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Insurance companies back the bill, arguing non-economic damages drive up the cost for every insured driver.

The Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys opposes the legislation, and in July, Governor Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the bill. Nixon, the former attorney general, received about one-third of his campaign donations from trial lawyers, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch analysis of campaign finance documents.

"House Bill Number 339 cannot receive my approval because it is riddled with ambiguity that will generate excessive litigation over how and to whom its provisions would apply," Nixon wrote in his veto message. "Significantly, House Bill Number 339 does not adequately define the term 'uninsured motorist,' which is the very crux of the bill... Given the magnitude of barring an individual's access to the courts, it is unacceptable to leave this key term open to interpretation."

Not all insurance bills have been controversial in the state. On Wednesday, a new law took effect allowing motorists to use their mobile phones to verify their insurance coverage. This allows motorists to have proof from their carrier from an iPhone or Android app in cases where they may not have an up-to-date insurance card on hand. The law also authorizes insurance companies to offer a discount for saving the cost of printing and mailing the cards.

"The display of an image of the insurance card on a mobile electronic device shall not serve as consent for such officer, inspector, or other person to access other contents of the mobile electronic device in any manner other than to verify the image of the insurance card," House Bill Number 322 states.

The state House and Senate must can override the governor's veto with a two-thirds vote.

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