Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I don't know Bill Hobbs, but his comment on my earlier post about the Bredesen sellout of Tennessee's workers is, shall we say, misguided. He is also insulting, by headlining the comment "A Lawyer's Whine." For the record, I'm not whining: I'm pissed! He says:

Cutting the high cost of worker's comp insurance in Tennessee will mean increased job creation. More jobs is good. More money flowing into trial lawyers's pockets doesn't create more jobs, just wealthier trial lawyers.

First, no worker's compensation carrier has said that it will cut the cost of comp insurance contingent upon passage of this legislation. History teaches us that that carrot is always dangled in front of us, and then it's yanked away when we lose interest, down the line. So, I have no doubts that the cost of comp premiums will go UP, and not down.

Second, I have been shown no data that the cost of comp coverage is costing Tennessee jobs. All I have seen is the unsupported, bald assertion made by the Bredesen Administration. Having worked with comp for 12 years, I can tell anyone willing to listen that Tennessee's benefits prior to this legislation were quite middle of the road, contrary to the line put out by the proponents of the change.

Third, where does Hobbs get off with the nonsense about "wealthier trial lawyers?" If I was "wealthy," I wouldn't care about the legislation, and I damn sure wouldn't handle worker's compensation cases. By statute, the maximum fee a lawyer may recover for representing a worker's compensation claimant is 20% of the recovery. Most worker's compensation claims are resolved for under $20,000. Thus, I will work a comp case for -- sometimes -- years, and maybe get a fee of $4,000. And don't forget that you sometimes lose. I represented the nicest fellow in the world for 9 1/2 YEARS, tried the case, and the judge ruled against us. You've got to factor in the losses and no recovery claims [i.e., those where there is no permanent injury and therefore no fee], which these knee-jerk tort reformers fail to account for.

Fourth, Hobbs may be right about a 40% cut in revenue. But he fails to understand how the drop comes about, and what it really means. There will likely be a cut in claims made, because the new law reduces potential comp recoveries so low that many lawyers will not be able to afford to take the case. Put another way, Joe Lawyer is not going to take on a case if he's going to lose money on it even if he wins the case! So, there is a two-fold agenda at work here: (1) Big Insurance and the Chambers of Commerce get rid of those pesky employees who had the bad taste to get hurt on the job, and (2) those trial lawyers who operate at or near the profitability line may be forced out of business, which means even fewer claims to worry about. At bottom, this legislation repesents a very cynical approach to protecting our citizenry. Remember, an employee hurt on the job may make a comp claim, and ONLY a comp claim, against his employer. It's the exclusive remedy. The translation of all this, for the uninitiated, is: Bend over, grab your ankles, and....

What really gets me and those like me is that our Governor, who ran a campaign designed to engender trial lawyer and regular folks support, just spat in our faces -- and our clients as well -- by forcing this legislation down our throats. Hobbs's argument is a mirage; it looks real good till you stare closely at it. Then it dissolves.
Spam sucks. While I'm not in the league of some friends of mine [Read Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds], I'm getting 30-40 pure crap emails per day. It seems like I get one every 5 minutes or so. What a pain.

Speaking of Glenn, he's a real sweetheart. He's posted an ad for my firm's web site on his blog ads. This is my great experiment: can an Internet presence generate new cases for a predominantly plaitiff's personal injury firm? Five years ago, I was convinced that the answer was "No." Now, I'm not sure. I figured that the exposure from the mega-hits that Glenn gets is one not terribly scientific way of finding out. If I get hits on the firm's site, then I'll know.

The verdict so far? Not great. I've had like 1 hit all day. Well, I'll give it time. Life is long....