Guest Columns

LEVY: HILLMAN OUGHT TO COME CLEAN AS TO WHO HE REPRESENTS

Hillman's column about HB 1168 is filled with inaccurate and inflammatory charges

If Mark Hillman is going to carry the water of the inaptly-named “Civil Justice League” in The Colorado Statesman, he should at least have the honesty to reveal that he is the paid executive director of that organization. Instead, he has submitted a diatribe full of inaccurate and inflammatory charges regarding House Bill 1168 while hiding behind his former position as Republican state senator and treasurer.

Lest Mr. Hillman claim that his failure to identify himself as the Executive Direction of the Civil Justice League (which represents the lawyers who represent insurance companies) was an oversight, readers of The Colorado Statesman should know that he did the same thing in the Denver Post. Evidently, Mr. Hillman must believe that associating himself with the interests his organization represents would be a liability and detract from his credibility since he is so eager to distance himself from it.

I cannot figure out after reading Mr. Hillman’s column whether he has made the wild accusations in it because he is clueless about how personal injury litigation and subrogation claims actually work, or because he has no regard for accuracy. I’m not sure which is worse.

Here is what House Bill 10-1168 does. Say Mark Hillman runs a red light at a high rate of speed and broadsides me in my car. I suffer severe injuries that result in medical expenses in excess of $30,000, which my health insurance company has paid on my behalf. I miss four weeks of work and have to return to work on a reduced schedule. I have lost $25,000 in wages as of when I file my claim. Because of my injuries, I will not attain my former level of earnings for several years, which will cost me over $100,000 in loss of future earnings. I will incur additional medical expenses in the future to the tune of $10,000. The injuries will cause early onset arthritis; walking is painful; and I can no longer enjoy the active lifestyle I formerly enjoyed. Conservatively, Mr. Hillman’s negligence has caused $200,000 in damages to me.

Taking advantage of Colorado’s low insurance requirements, Mr. Hillman only carries $25,000 in liability insurance. So that’s all I can hope to collect from him. Under existing law, my health insurance company and the attorneys Mr. Hillman works for can demand that I turn that entire amount over to them. That leaves me with nothing for my lost wages, future medical expenses, loss of future earnings, pain and loss of enjoyment of life. That also leaves me wondering what I received in return for the premiums I paid to my health insurance company all those years.

House Bill 1168 says that the accident victim recovers their damages before the insurance company gets repaid. An insurance company that has paid benefits made necessary due to an injury may only demand reimbursement if there is sufficient recovery from the party at fault to leave the injured person fully compensated for their damages other than the benefits being repaid.

Mr. Hillman seeks to vilify the trial lawyers in this arrangement. If auto insurance companies always offered up a fair settlement and if Mr. Hillman’s clients respected the accident victim’s right to be compensated for their injuries, the victim wouldn’t have to retain an attorney. And yes, it is true that the attorney the victim retains gets paid for their services when they fight for their client. The attorneys Mr. Hillman works for get paid to fight for the insurance companies. So what?

Mr. Hillman would have readers of The Colorado Statesman believe HB 1186 interferes with health insurance companies interceding on behalf of accident victims. HB 1168 would not be necessary if the only thing at stake in a car accident is medical expenses. Rare is the case that doesn’t also include lost income, future losses of income or future medical expenses, on-going pain and loss of enjoyment of a former lifestyle. To make the reckless driver pay for the harm they have caused, the victim usually must hire their own attorney.

Knowing that his readers are probably concerned about impending double digit health premium increases, Mr. Hillman resorts to raising the specter that House Bill 1168 will cause premiums to increase. I guess he believes leaving accident victims uncompensated is the way to solve run-away health insurance costs. His approach forces innocent victims to bear the losses from a car accident themselves instead of having the cost of the resulting medical expenses shared among the entire risk pool. .

I am gratified that today the House Committee on the Judiciary passed the bill unanimously and that the Civil Justice League dropped its objections to the bill. I guess the attorneys Mr. Hillman represents understood the bill just a bit better than he did.

Rep. Claire Levy, D-HD 13, represents Clear Creek, Gilpin and eastern Boulder counties.