Since his days as governor of Texas, President Bush has been a proponent of limiting laws related to civil lawsuits brought by individuals against large corporate interests and insurance companies that cause damage. Despite the unfounded legitimacy that the president’s support brings to the cause, the numbers show that the only real winners in the “tort reform” game are the insurance companies and big corporations.

The Texas Legislature took up the issue of so-called “tort reform” in 1995 and then again in 2003. Laws in the state of Texas were ripped out of the hands of the people by well-paid lobbyists representing wealthy corporate interests. Individuals like Ken Lay, former CEO of Enron, Richard Weekly, a homebuilder frequently sued for building dangerous housing funneled huge amounts of money into the coffers of politicians they knew would sympathize with his cause.

When the dust settled, civil law was left in a sorry state for people seeking redress for wrongs done to them. Change laundry lists include:

  • Medical malpractice damage limit to $250,000.00
  • Reduced effectiveness of product liability causes of action
  • Limits the information juries hear regarding personal injury medical expenses
  • Changes the information Texas personal injury attorneys can present to juries

The real winners and losers in this story are not the same people that “tort reform” advocates would have us think. While the door to the courtroom has slammed shut in the face of many medical malpractice victims, insurance companies in Texas are reaping near-record profits.

Reports released in early 2008 by the Texas Department of Insurance indicated that insurance companies had another year of stellar earnings by spending their fifth consecutive year exceeding or matching a reasonable earnings standard benchmark.

Overall, the Texas insurance industry maintained an average loss rate of 36.5 percent in 2007, according to reports. Put simply, insurers paid 36.5 percent of premiums to cover losses, well below the 58 percent figure that industry insiders often cite as a reasonable measure of profitability. This gigantic industry is only gaining more power as it amasses more profits and resources to influence other state legislatures across the country.

The question remains for the other states of our country, what can be done to prevent this from happening in your home?

The answer lies in the preparation for each upcoming legislative session and in the constant education of the public about the real winners and losers of “tort liability reform.” The front lines of any attempt by insurance companies and large corporations to curtail the rights of injured people are consumer groups and local trial lawyer associations. Each of these types of organizations generally maintains the infrastructure to mobilize the necessary resources to combat political action and, hopefully, cultivate the necessary legislative contacts that will keep the best interests of the population at hand.

Law firms that typically represent individuals in personal injury actions can also play a useful role in educating their client bases about the harmful effects of “tort reform” through newsletters, communications to legislators, and , in general, serving people who have been forced to use the state’s tort. system for holding a wrongdoer accountable.

Each individual voter in each state is ultimately the voice any legislator hears when they cast a vote for or against “tort tort reform.” Proper mobilization and preparation for the inevitable attempts to boost insurance company profits in the state legislature by selling “injury reforms” can level the playing field when it comes to trying to pass these kinds of laws.

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