BATON ROUGE- The state's elected insurance watchdog blames lawyers in New Orleans for the state's exorbitant car insurance premiums.

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said "ambulance chasers" have designed a framework industry to increases costs and maximize settlement claims. Donelon called it a "soft tissue industry."

"It's made up of not just lawyers, 'ambulance chasers' if you will, it's also made up of doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, tow truck drivers; who are chasing minor accidents and converting them into $15,000 windfalls," Donelon told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

Donelon discussed a recommendation to lower the threshold for jury trials from $50,000 to $10,000, a move proponents believe will eliminate judge shopping and reduce lawsuit awards. But, people against the move argue it will require jury trials which increase costs and strain a busy court system.

Donelon also suggested eliminating pain and suffering awards for people who do not have insurance. Those individuals already do not collect the first $15,000 in claims.

Donelon said said four parishes- Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and Jefferson- have the highest rates of any area in the state. 

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