The vote followed months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between some senators who fought for even bigger payouts to victims and other senators who said increasing the government's legal liability will raise insurance rates, thereby forcing cities, counties and state agencies to raise taxes or cut services.
"This is a little bit higher than what I wanted it to be, but I know it's a good bit less than what some other people wanted it to be," Senate Majority Leader
Under current S.C. law, a victim in an accident caused by the government -- say, a person injured in a wreck caused by a neglected pothole -- can sue for only
Groups of people hurt or killed by government negligence -- such as children on an aging school bus that catches fire -- would have to share a maximum payout of
Critics, including trial lawyers, argue those caps, which haven't been adjusted in 20 years, are outdated and insufficient to pay medical bills or funeral costs in 2019, much less compensate victims or their families for their losses.
Trial attorneys also have complained the low caps encourage the state's insurance agency, the
"In my view, there shouldn't be any caps," said state Sen.
But other senators, including Massey, said raising the caps too much would cause insurance premiums to spike for state agencies, cities, counties, fire departments and school districts -- leading them to either raise taxes or cut services.
After a compromise last month, the
Senators also agreed -- some begrudgingly -- to remove part of the bill that would have tied the caps to the Consumer Price Index, allowing them to rise with inflation. The failed provision, Massey said, would have amounted to voting for an annual tax increase.
The bill now heads to the
If passed, the current proposal would cost S.C. counties that buy their insurance through the state
State economists could not yet estimate how much premiums would rise for state agencies insured by state's insurance fund, or for cities, counties, schools and hospitals that buy insurance elsewhere.
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