. All states that legally require auto insurance to be able to drive legally, will always have minimum coverage amounts. In California, the minimum liability for bodily injury is coverage of fifteen thousand dollars per person or thirty thousand dollars per accident. The liability for property damage is coverage of five thousand dollars per accident. Uninsured motorist coverage for bodily injury is fifteen thousand dollars per person or thirty thousand dollars per accident. Uninsured motorist coverage for property damage is three thousand and five hundred dollars. These are minimum coverage amounts and every driver or auto owner can go for much more liability but not many people do so. You would have the legal right to drive, in regards to insurance, if you have met these auto insurance policy limits.
Let us consider a scenario wherein a person has been
seriously injured and some damage has been caused to their property by a fellow
driver. The injured person may not be at any fault. The injury could be severe,
requiring hospitalization and leading to say thirty-five thousand dollars in
medical expenses. The damage to property, say a car being hit from the rear at
sixty miles per hour, may be worth twenty thousand dollars in damages to fund
the repairs and possible replacements. In effect, the person who has suffered
the injury and has their car damaged can claim twenty-five thousand dollars in
bodily injury and twenty thousand in property damage. If the injury has caused
serious pain and suffering or if the person has been unable to work for a few
days, perhaps weeks, the damages can be reviewed accordingly. Ideally, one
should be compensated deservingly, albeit reasonably.
If the person at fault for the accident has minimum coverage, then these claims cannot be met. The injured person would at the most get fifteen thousand dollars for medical expenses and five thousand dollars for damage caused to property, in this case the car that had been rear-ended. There would be no compensation for pain & suffering or the wages lost due to the inability of the injured person to report to their work. The only resort available to the injured person is to file a case but there is no guarantee that exponentially greater claims than these would get granted by the court, and even if they are granted, there is certainly no guarantee the judgment will be collected.
Comparing this scenario with an individual suffering a trip and fall at a grocery store that has a million dollars coverage would showcase how victims of auto accidents are severely limited with their options due to the policy limits. If the customer at the grocery store suffers a sprained ankle or wrist and claims twenty-five thousand dollars in bodily injury, the insurer could comfortably pay for it as there is a million dollars coverage. The damages are insignificant compared to the auto accident victim.
A look at the Citizen United Decision Eight Years Later
In the run up to the 2008 United States Presidential Election, a group called Citizens United wanted to broadcast a film titled ‘Hillary: The Movie’. They also wanted to advertise the broadcasting of the movie on major television channels. Preexisting laws barred Citizens United from broadcasting the movie as it violated many established practices, one of which was the prohibition of corporations participating in any electioneering communications. While corporations, private or publicly held, labor unions and all kinds of associations can freely donate to any political party or candidate of their choice, they cannot directly participate in electioneering communications or sponsored campaigns that would advocate the victory or defeat of any candidate in the fray. Such communications are restricted during the sixty days leading to the election and for a period of thirty days until the primaries.
Hillary Clinton was pitted against Barack Obama in the primaries. The movie was to be aired during the thirty days leading to the primary and hence Citizens United could not go ahead with their planned or intended broadcast. They filed a petition at the D.C. district court and it eventually went up to the Supreme Court as it involved constitutional rights. The Citizens United decision was essentially about free speech and upholding the freedom of expression. Prohibiting ordinary citizens or corporations from expressing their views, even if they are at a crucial juncture as the days leading up to a primary or the election, would be a direct violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled by a majority of five to four that enabled associations or organizations and individuals, for profit and nonprofit groups to participate in electioneering communications or campaigns.
The landmark ruling has had many ripple effects over the years. The entire business of politics has undergone a sea change as a direct impact of the ruling. The decision effectively allowed companies to spend as much money as they wanted on political activities if the funds were not directly donated to a candidate or a party. The floodgates opened, and innumerable political action committees have been created in the last eight years. These are often partisan initiatives but there are nonpartisan groups as well. The more troubling impact has been on dark money. Many corporations have allegedly started using funds that are not disclosed or completely accounted for to finance such political activities.
Candidates are now capable of raising much more funds, either directly or by routing them to fund specific communications. This has led to a sharp increase in spending before and during elections. In eight years, outside spending for Senate races have almost tripled. It is not a surprise that outside groups are the primary financers for such spending. When the Supreme Court struck down or reversed, either wholly or partly, the existing laws that prevented Citizens United from broadcasting the movie, the objective was to uphold free speech and expression, including political messages and opinions. But the highest court of the land ended up promoting partisan financing and unbalanced electioneering communications, which has been the reality post the decision.