Friday, March 07, 2003

Mark emails:
I'm not sure who to believe regarding all the costs involved with medical care these days, and I suspect that lawyers, especially those that are now legislators, are not entirely blameless. However, most of the "cures" sound worse than the problem.

I work as a programmer at an engineering company, and when something goes out of whack, we figure out what changed and put it back the way it was. Perhaps I'm naive, but isn't that how the problem of out-of-control legal costs be fought? (Assuming there is such a thing...)

If something in the tort system has gone out of control, isn't the best response to figure out what rules or procedures or laws or precedents have changed and fix them?
It's not like we removed the caps and jury awards shot up. We never had caps. That's not what changed. Why do we need them now?

Big Insurance would like to have you believe that hat's changed is a so-called increase in big verdicts. Unfortunately, the data demonstrate otherwise. What's changed is what always changes when the carriers start increasing premiums [and it happened in the 70s and the 80s, and they always blame trial lawyers and lawsuits] -- Big Insurance is showing reduced profits because the markets have gone to hell. they are recouping those losses by increasing premiums, and at the same time they are scapegoating trial lawyers and the system as it is now. It's shameless profiteering of the worst kind.

A word about some of Mark's assumptions. He suspects that lawyers are not entirely blameless. I agree that some lawyers are bad lawyers and/or prosecute bad cases, but no profession is all-good -- or all-bad for that matter. But if we're looking for who's to blame for high premiums, who do you blame? I, for one, blame the at-fault defendants whose negligence led to the claim or lawsuit in the first place. I blame the insurance companies, which are increasing premiums to buck up their sagging profits while blaming someone else for their unsound investment practices. I do NOT blame the lawyers who, as a group, are seeking redress from at fault parties, which at fault parties have bought and paid for insurance to protect them against that very risk.

I believe that the theory is sound that lawyers who seek money damages against negligent parties can indirectly do society good, by forcing negligent parties to be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Case in point: you don't hear about Pintos blowing up any more. For that matter, you don't hear about Pintos any more. I'd like to believe that Ford, one way or another, got the message that unsafe or defective products will not be tolerated. If that result is a by-product of what I and others like me do, then that's OK by me.

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