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Auto insurance discussed at town meeting

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Insurance was the main topic of conversation at a town meeting hosted by state Rep. Gregg Rippy at Glenwood Springs City Hall Wednesday. The public session was one of 10 meetings the Glenwood Springs Republican is holding throughout the 61st District since the Colorado General Assembly adjourned on May 7. At the meeting, Rippy explained the implications of a new auto insurance bill to a small crowd.He said effective July 1, Colorado will become a tort-based insurance state, joining 37 states that don’t require drivers to purchase personal injury protection, or PIP, coverage with their auto insurance. This replaces the no-fault insurance system in place since 1974.Rippy said he voted in favor of the new system because it gives consumers more choices, and could save consumers money.”The state now has the 11th highest auto insurance rates in the country,” he said. Giving people options regarding insurance costs could help lower those rates. But he also cautioned that the new tort system could prompt more lawsuits from drivers suing other drivers for car accident injuries. “The sky’s not falling, but we have to be vigilant,” he added.He said he will closely monitor systems that will reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the highway. Rippy cited a police report in the Post Independent of a motorist whose car was impounded when police discovered the driver did not have car insurance.”Right now, statistics show that 20 to 25 percent of Colorado motorists drive without car insurance,” he said. “We need to work to get those numbers down as we implement this new system.”

Rippy also talked with the group about his contractor’s liability bill, HB 1161, that passed the Colorado House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Bill Owens on April 25. Rippy said he’s been working on the bill for three years to control escalating general liability insurance costs for building contractors. Rippy said the bill still allows a homeowner or commercial building owner to recoup money directly related to proven construction defects, but limits the amount of punitive awards for issues such as mental anguish, to $250,000 per case. He said this limit can keep contractors’ insurance premiums down, thereby keeping building costs down. Rippy offered examples of cases in Denver that topped what he considers a fair settlement. A family purchased a new home for $117,000, but was awarded $2.1 million by a jury in actual and non-actual damages that went far beyond the real costs of the family’s loss.He also said he knows of a Denver attorney who specializes in construction defect cases.”In 2002 alone, he made $10 million,” Rippy said. “This is as big a problem as medical malpractice.” Under the new bill, a homeowner will have the right to go to the contractor and request a remedy. The contractor can then make an offer for repairs, which the homeowner can accept or reject.For example, if a $400,000 house collapses due to proven construction defects, the homeowner can recoup the entire $400,000 plus attorney and moving fees. But the homeowner could only collect up to $250,000 in additional payments.In the case of a multi-family building such as the Terrace complex in Glenwood Springs, individual homeowners who file separate cases can each receive actual damages, plus up to $250,000. If a group of owners submits a case together, the group could recoup the costs of their individual units and would have to share any additional award, which would be limited to a total of $250,000.”This bill is going to create a lot more honesty between owner and contractor,” Rippy said. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.com

Gregg Rippy’s town meetingsColorado State Representative Gregg Rippy is scheduled to hold the following town meetings:-Noon today at Aspen City Hall-4 p.m. today at Basalt Town Hall-4 p.m. Friday at Carbondale Town HallThe public is invited and encouraged to attend. Contact Gregg Rippy: (303) 866-2945, e-mail: grippy@mindspring.com, or write him at P.O. Box 2946, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602


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