Math doesn’t lie. Neither does the black and white letter of the law. And now, we know with certainty, that the math and statutory language included in the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act (SB 418) by Sen. Kirk Talbot shows the bill will reduce auto insurance rates. All we need now is for the Legislature to pass it and the Governor to sign it as soon as possible. That can happen if people across the state reach out to lawmakers and make your voice heard.
A handful of vocal opponents from the personal injury attorney community will continue to throw mud and deceptive tactics at the bill, but now those few voices have a problem: the bill is crystal clear in its application, the demand for reform across Louisiana is deafening and legislators are finally paying attention to a problem that has long needed attention.
Even if those opponents find a way to kill this bill, it will just come back ten times over, every year if that is what it takes, until it is passed. If they find a way to gut it and rip out the substantive provisions that will lead to an improved legal climate and lower rates for everyone, the frustration that will ensue after the fact will elevate demand for a true reform fix even more.
This is what happens when a crisis point is hit, and that is where we are as a state with our legal system’s harmful impact on insurance access and affordability.
Commercial insurers are leaving the market to flee predatory lawsuits and those remaining are forced to raise rates. If you don’t believe that is true, ask any farmer, trucker, logger or small business delivery service operator you know. They will tell you some tragic stories of how hard it is to keep their family business afloat and their employees working.
Louisiana has the second highest insurance rates in the nation. Everyone understands this is largely driven by a toxic legal climate in a Louisiana that has grown addicted to lawsuits and settlement checks, and has for too long been protected in the State Capitol by bad laws on the books. The advertising is out of control, but it sure must be working, because a handful of trial lawyers are now building call centers in Louisiana to search for plaintiffs any way they can to keep the money flowing. This trend of escalating lawsuits will only continue unless something is done. Insurance rates paid by all of us will keep rising and our legal climate won’t improve until the laws are changed in our Capitol.
None of this is normal in other states and this was never how our founding fathers designed our legal system to function.
Thirty-five of the 55 delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention who created the document that inspires our nation’s ideals, principles and liberties were lawyers. They worked hard to ensure that a just system was put in place in America so all would be treated fairly. They believed in ensuring people could defend themselves in front of a jury of their peers. They believed in the notion that the truth should set someone free and that people are innocent until proven guilty.
In Louisiana today, we make it more difficult than any other state to get a jury in an auto accident case. Louisiana has other laws on the books restricting the amount of evidence you can bring to trial to defend yourself. It is drastically harder to earn a jury of your peers and present all the evidence than any other state in the country. These laws violate the spirit of what our founding fathers stood for and have helped to damage a healthy, competitive insurance market in our state.
Do we really think the great legal minds of our nation’s founding, people like Alexander Hamilton, would look on our current system with pride? Ok, maybe you’re not a history buff, then ask yourself if inspiring fictional legal figures like Atticus Finch, Jack McCoy or Perry Mason would like what they see in Louisiana today?
I am very proud to be an attorney and I think the legal profession is one of the most noble careers available. I know countless attorneys and judges who work tirelessly each day for honorable and inspiring purposes. Many are charitable community leaders who deserve appreciation for their efforts. But there are a handful of actors in our legal profession who are now impacting the trust the general public has in all of us. It’s tough to acknowledge and talk about, but we all know it to be true.
The time is now to pass SB 418, restore that trust and bring this all back into balance.
SB 418 by Senator Kirk Talbot is once again the must-pass bill of the legislative session this year, just as it was last year. The math and language show it will lower insurance rates for everyone and that is desperately needed. Almost as important, this bill will help bring our legal system back into balance… a legal system that more accurately resembles the inspiring notions, principles and figures of the past, and more accurately resembles the large number of inspiring legal professionals of today who have for too long had their noble work overshadowed by an aggressive, charismatic few who are experts in marketing.
To join the cause, learn more or to make your voice heard, text “FIXITNOW” to 66866. We can’t afford to wait.
Stephen Waguespack is president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.