Thursday, December 23, 2010

The insurance industry smear campaign against lawyers and the trial justice system

Here in Montana, we are about to embark on another legislative session. This session will be dominated by a Republican controlled state house and senate. We need to watch out for so-called 'tort reform' bills that will be inevitably headed our way.

What is 'tort reform'? It is an insurance industry sponsored attempt to re-write the rules of how accident and injury cases are handled in the courts.

A few years ago, our Montana Legislature enacted a law capping 'non-economic' damages in medical malpractice cases at $250 thousand per case. This means that even in the most horrific case, and injured person can't get more than that amount of 'pain and suffering' or 'emotional distress' damages. Even if a young person will have excruciating pain for fifty years, those damages are capped at $250 thousand.

Now we can fully expect similar proposals to change the law in auto accident and other tort cases in Montana. Already several bill draft requests appear designed to head in that direction. See
All Montanans should be very worried about these insurance friendly proposals. If you or a loved one are hurt in an accident, you should get full, fair compensation that truly reflects your actual damages. We do not need artificial caps on the amount of damages.

There is a huge amount of propaganda about large jury verdicts. First of all, they are much more rare than you would think. When one actually happens, it is always a big news story. When smaller verdicts, or defense victories, occur, they barely make the news at all. Secondly, when a large verdict is handed down, the insurance industry often distorts the facts to leave out a clear explanation of why a jury awarded such a large verdict.

The truth is that we have an adversarial process with fair rules. Both sides get their say in a lawsuit, and believe me, the insurance industry doesn't hold back. After the big fight in Court is over, if a jury awards a large amount, it is well deserved.

All of us should vigorously oppose any so-called tort reform.