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Special Contribution


There has been substantial discussion of various state no-fault provisions. By comparison, little has been said about the sweeping federal nofault bill.' Adoption of the federal plan, however, would make discussion of state plans truly academic. The Report of the Commerce Committee outlined the general provisions of the federal proposal:

The bill would create a nationwide automobile insurance system which would, in the event of a motor vehicle accident, pay the cost of restoring to the maximum extent feasible, all occupants and pedestrians who are injured, and compensate, subject to reasonable limitation, the economic loss of all deceased victims. While extending this right to recover benefits to all persons, S. 354 would simultaneously restrict each person's right to sue because of the fault of another to cases of serious injury.
Each State could establish a State no-fault plan which meets or exceeds the national standards set forth in S. 354 at any time prior to the completion of the first general session of the State legislature that convenes after the bill is enacted ....
If a State does not establish a no-fault plan in accordance with title II during its first legislative session, an alternative State no-fault plan for motor vehicle insurance, title III o/f the bill, would become applicable and go into effect in that State nine months later ....

Suppose that shortly after S. 354 becomes law, a client comes into your office who has recently been involved in an automobile collision. He has endured a great deal of pain and suffering but did not receive the type of injury necessary to permit a suit in tort. If this occurs, you may be confronted with the issue whether the federal reparations system is unconstitutional. The following is an analysis of the basic constitutional problems presented by S. 354.