The Senate passes lawsuit reform legislation that supporters believe may help lower auto insurance rates.

The bill lowers the jury trial threshold to 10,000 dollars, prevents insurance company’s names from being mentioned in court, and removes a gag order on whether a crash victim was wearing a seat belt. Bossier City Senator Barrow Peacock says it’s not as strong as past efforts, but it’s a start.

“What this bill does is instead of a home run it is a triple,” says Peacock.

Past tort efforts had jury trial thresholds of 5,000 dollars and barred plaintiffs from suing auto insurance companies as opposed to just keeping their name secret in court. They also included a two year prescriptive period for filing suits.

Democrats fumed over the legislation’s lack of any wording requiring auto insurance rates to go down if the bill were to pass. Alexandria Senator Jay Luneau says it does nothing for drivers.

“It’s not going to lower insurance rates, I know that and I think in your heart you know that but by god it is what LABI (Louisiana Association of Business and Industry) and the insurance industry wanted to we are going to go out there and support it,” says Luneau.

This stripped-down legislation removed pieces of prior efforts that Evangeline Parish Senator Heather Cloud says would address the state’s sky-high commercial auto insurance rates.

“This bill will not effectively address the crisis, crisis that we have with commercial auto in the state of Louisiana, crisis,” says Cloud.

Cloud ultimately supported the legislation. The vote was 29-9 and the bill now returns to the House for a final vote.

(Story written by Matt Doyle/Louisiana Radio Network)