October 14 - 21, 1998

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Statistical Report Could Be Newest Weapon in Car Insurance Battle

by Andy Hart

They say the insurance business is all about numbers and now Hartford has some numbers of its own which may be of use in its long battle to lower car insurance rates for city drivers.

A report prepared this summer by two student interns regarding who causes car accidents in Hartford and where they come from will be released today at a press conference called by State Senator John Fonfara, State Representative Art Feltman, City Councilmembers Al Marotta and Frances Sanchez and other city leaders at the State Legislative Office Building. Marilyn Rossetti, President of Hartford Areas Rally Together (HART), and members of the State Legislature's Auto Insurance Task Force are also expected to be present at the press conference.

The interns, Alexy Blake and Joel Zea, were hired by the City and worked with the Hartford Police Department to compile a list of accidents that occurred in Hartford between June, 1997-June, 1998.
According to the report, of the 7,290 accidents which happened during the time span studied, approximately 80 percent (5,814) involved out-of-town drivers as one or all of the parties and 20 percent (1,476) involved just Hartford drivers.

The interns then took a 10 percent sample of all car accidents involving out of town drivers (including those involving Hartford drivers and those that involved just drivers from out of town) and looked at who police found to be at fault in the accident. According to the report, Hartford drivers caused 18.5 percent of these accidents while out-of-town drivers caused the remaining 81.57 percent.

The interns also examined, again using the 10 percent sample, where the out-of-town drivers who caused the most accidents came from and found that most came from the towns adjacent or close by to Hartford, such as 47 accidents caused by East Hartford drivers, 40 from Bloomfield and 53 from West Hartford. Hartford drivers themselves accounted for 108 of the accidents studied.

Feltman said he feels the interns' report indicates that Hartford drivers make more insurance claims because the roads are more congested, not because their driving habits make them more likely to be involved in an accident. If the higher number of accidents in the city is caused by the increased traffic, which is mainly due to the estimated 75,000 people who commute into the city daily, then Hartford residents should not be saddled with higher rates for a situation they did not create, he said.

Sue Cogswell, a spokesperson for the State Department of Insurance, said she had not seen the report and the department would have further comment on it when it was officially released. She did say that the insurance companies base their territorial ratings not on what town the accident occurs in but where the driver at fault keeps his car.
Accidents in Hartford involving two or more out-of-town drivers would therefore have no effect on Hartford rates, she said.

Feltman, however, said there may be a problem with the system in that insurance companies base their rating based on which driver's insurance company eventually pays the claim, not on who the police determine is at fault. Unfortunately, he said, it often takes up to a year for the claim to be settled and, in the meantime, the driver who is not at fault often places the claim with their own insurance company in order to get their car fixed or pay off medical bills. The accident is then charged to both insurance companies, Feltman said, until a final settlement is reached but he questioned whether the insurance companies are able to go back and continually change the records to indicate which side was ultimately at fault.

Cogswell, however, said the insurance companies do go back and make the readjustment.

The Hartford legislators, city officials and community leaders who are waging the battle against the high car insurance rates are planning to use the interns' report in their efforts to have the state change the territorial system in some way, such as broadening the territories so that Hartford would be included with the several towns that surround it, which would lower the rates for city drivers.

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