Call Now For A Free Consultation 24/7 (941) 954-1234

Voters Be Aware: New Study Shows The Fiction Of Tort Reform And Frivolous Law Suits


The verdict is in on tort reform: Political wrangling, harmful policy with little to no cost reduction and undo harm to those in need.

The Tort Reform Debate Explained

Before going deep into the tort reform rabbit hole we think it’s best to explain the basics of tort reform for those unfamiliar. The phrase has been a buzzword used in many recent political debates especially when the subject of skyrocketing insurance costs are discussed, but what exactly is tort reform? Or a tort for that matter.

A tort is not a fruity pastry but something all together more unpleasant: a wrongful act that leads to a civil liability.

In other words, negligence of one party harms or damages another and a civil (non-criminal) law suit is filed to receive compensation for the wrong doing.

The ability for a citizen to file a suit after being harmed by another’s negligence is a fundamental cornerstone of a fair and equitable society. Examples of such cases include medical malpractice, personal injury and auto accident cases. A drunk driver can in seconds shatter the lives of an entire family and after the fact a civil law suit or tort, is the families best way to cover medical bills, loss of income or compensation for the death of a loved one.

A civil law suit is also essential in other kinds of cases such as nursing home abuse. Nothing could more disturbing than learning your parents or family members has been harmed and abused by negligent caregivers. Again a civil law suit is the best way to respond for those who have been harmed.

OK, if Torts are so great why is there an argument about reforming them?

Unless you have been living under a rock the past 10 years you have heard the debt of skyrocketing healthcare and insurance costs being discussed. With the nation’s healthcare insurance being one of the largest costs and drags on the United States economy, politicians have been angling to use this crisis as leverage in their own agendas.

Many policymakers have been attempting to blame fear of a civil law suit as the biggest reason that healthcare costs are going up so fast.

They have claimed that fear of being sued has caused medical practitioners to schedule unnecessary treatments and procedures “just in case” there is ever an issue and they are taken to court. This is called “defensive medicine.”

In Florida this debate has been expanded to include a supposed plague of staged auto accidents and fraud that is the reason for increasing insurance rates.

The basic summary of the tort reform supporters position is this: All you darn injured people are suing for too much money and driving up our insurance costs and harming business.

Now if defensive medicine really was a significant cost in the medical industry (it’s is not) and if thousands of faked car crashes were really happening all the time (they don’t) the argument would still fall far short to control insurance costs (it is not).

Cleveland Clinic Study Shows Tort Reform Argument Full Of Holes

A new study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic that has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association measured how much defensive medicine there actually is and how much it really costs.

The results are a strong rebuke for the tort reform argument. The researchers’ conclusion is that defensive medicine only accounts for about 2.9% of healthcare spending.

That’s right, a study done by a medical organization on it’s own industry which has been proponents of tort reform has found just 2.9% of medical spending is defensive medicine.

In fact where tort reform measures have been enacted only one group benefited: the insurance industry.

Tort Reform Fails Miserably To Reduce Costs

Tort reform measures have utterly failed to reduce insurance premiums in any market, and the effect has been harmful for those who have suffered great loss or damages and found the compensation they need capped at levels created in the 1980s.

In Miami-Dade county, despite tort reform measures enacted capping malpractice compensation levels, the insurance industry flagrantly gouged OB-GYNs more than $190,000 each year for just $1 million dollars in malpractice coverage. The same coverage was $100,000 LESS in other parts of Florida.

Obscene Profits For The Insurance Industry

While much of Floridians were fighting to stay homeowners in depths of the great recession, the insurance industry was reaping the insanely profitable benefits of tort reform.

Between the years of 2003 to 2010, net income for insurance companies rose by an astounding 4300% after tort reform was passed.

Maybe it’s just me, but should that extra money gone into reduced premiums since apparently there were not enough “frivolous lawsuits” to make a tiny dent in that 4300% profit increase?

Harmful For Ordinary Citizens

Tort reform laws seek to reduce law suits in a number of ways that are all harmful for citizens rights.

While efforts to hinder the civil justice system and protect the profits of big business have been under way for years, tort reform has brought in some new attacks on the average person’s ability to defend their rights after being wronged by a negligent party. Most tort reform laws include a cap on the amount of compensation in a civil law suit. In one such law compensation for medical malpractice suits was capped at $250,000. Now for some that may sound like a lot, however in many serious cases, medical bills, physical therapy, ongoing medical services, loss of income and loss of the ability to earn money in the future will require a much larger sum.

Additionally some tort reform laws also seek to make it more difficult for an injured person to file a law suit at all by adding many layers of bureaucracy and hurdles a law firm must go through to file a case.

Ok, So If Tort Reform Does Not Really Reduce Insurance Cost, Harms Citizens and Generates Huge Profits For The Insurance Industry, Why Push For These Laws Every Year?

The answer is politics.

A two pronged benefit that generally goes to republican candidates. First, trial lawyers as a group tend to lean democratic in their political affiliations. That, plus being a group of highly skilled litigators, makes trial lawyers a target for those republican strategists looking for ways to hinder their adversaries. The logic is civil law suits provides income to trial lawyers so by implementing tort reform laws they are harming trial lawyers as a group. Unfortunately tort reform harms citizens a lot more than attorneys, and the economy as a whole because the net effect of tort reform reduces insurance benefits to citizens while leaving rates sky-high.

The second benefit from tort reform laws for politicians is from the insurance lobby.

Running an election campaign is extremely expensive. Millions of dollars are spent on TV ads, billboards, websites and more even in smaller state races. Lobbyist from the insurance industry have found their interests align very well with some republicans on this issue and as such provide financial support to candidates sympathetic to the idea of tort reform.

As 2014 happens to be an election year where the governor of Florida will be decided we feel it is essential that voters are informed on the truth of tort reform, how it affects the average person, who benefits and why the push is on once again. Florida’s party based elections is no different than the rest of the country and as such Rick Scott, a republican is likely to support tort reform laws. Former Governor Charlie Crist as both a democrat and attorney himself is likely to not support such laws.

What ever your political affiliations are, tort reform will have a negative effect for both Florida’s people and our economy as a whole. We hope you will take this into consideration when heading to the polls this November and in future elections.

Summary:

  • Defensive Medicine Just 2.9% Of Medical Costs
  • Tort Reform Laws Do Not Reduce Insurance Premiums
  • Tort Reform Laws Generate Obscene Profits For The Insurance Industry
  • Tort Reform Laws Harm A Citizen’s Right To Be Compensated In A Civil Liability Case
  • Tort Reform Laws Are REALLY Being Pushed To Erode A Political Party And Their Base
  • Tort Reform Laws are Designed To Benefit Big Business
  • The Need For Tort Reform Is Greatly Exaggerated By Lobbyists
Voters Be Aware: New Study Shows The Fiction Of Tort Reform And Frivolous Law Suits

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh



Attorney Case Review
Get The Justice
You Deserve

Free Attorney Consultation

Law offices
Near you

Serving All Of Southwest Florida