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Georgia bill seeks to block 'ambulance chasers'

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ATLANTA — A proposal designed to halt insurance scams passed a Georgia Senate subcommittee Tuesday without a provision that would have prevented news coverage of accidents.

House Bill 828 restricts the release of information about accident victims and increases the penalties for buying it for the purpose of snagging clients for attorneys and doctors eager for the insurance claims.

The first offense is punishable as a misdemeanor with at least 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 or less.

A second offense brings a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

“This is to stop ambulance chasing,” the bill’s author, Rep. Ronnie Mabra, D-Fayetteville said. “... The intent of the bill is to stop the harassment and politicizing of accident victims.”

The House passed it last month, 168-2, and sent it to the Senate. On Tuesday, a subcommittee of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee recommended the full committee approve it, along with revised wording.

The House version would have also prevented the news media from gaining access to accident reports until 60 days after they occurred. But after discussions with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and the Georgia Press Association, Mabra agreed to restore media access to the reports as long as the reporters sign a statement asserting it they will be used for legitimate news reporting.

“I think we don’t have any other reservations,” said Hollie Manheimer, the executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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Riverman1 03/12/14 - 07:02 am

You mean you have to be a member of the media to gain access to simple government files such as accident reports? Is the media a special class of people? Who defines what the media is these days anyway with the way information is disseminated on the internet? If a government clerk is selling accident report info to lawyers, discipline the employee, but don't stop the public from having access to government information.

To address the legislators concern, if someone in the public wants to check all the accident reports and sell information to lawyers, that's their right. Government shouldn't limit access to government records because they don't like the number of lawsuits that result. I can't believe only 2 out of 170 get the concept.

Warnin 03/12/14 - 12:19 pm
Unemployment & Insurnce Companies

Well this is just going to put a bunch of hard working lawyers out of business, close down 3/4 of the fly by night law schools, and make the insurance companies fatter. Why don't they really do something productive like require insurance companies to rebate 50% of premiums when their have been no claims in 5 years. Keeping lawyers from investigating accidents and preserving evidence is not going to help anyone but insurance companies. If you are in an accident I will promise you that the at fault party's insurance company is not going to take care of your loss unless a lawyer is representing you. For the lawyer to represent you properly he must have full access to accident sights and witnesses and the sooner the better. The police do not always do a great job of investigating accidents and don't always issue citations to the at fault party. This bill would strip most citizens of their legal protection under the law by denying information to the legal profession. Thanks a bunch politicians - who paid you to stick it to us again?

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