Lawyers Say The Darnedest Things

Lawyers Say The Darnedest Things

United Press International: Fight over malpractice insurance begins
Jeb Bush is showing some serious spine by telling the Florida legislature that he’ll continue to call special sessions until they deal with malpractice insurance for doctors. The trial lawyers are, of course, aghast but I suspect they’ll lose this one. There’s a Republican legislature and a Republican governor and the trial lawyers have never been too keen on Republicans, and vice-versa.

The lawyers’ argument against capping “pain and suffering” damages at $250,000 isn’t that it won’t lower rates. No, instead they’ve said it will lower the rates for the least risky professions more than for the risky ones. It doesn’t take an abacus to figure that one out, assuming the rates are out of alignment now.

The state’s leading insurer has sent a letter promising 20% reductions and Governor Bush has insisted it be written into law. The trial lawyers are getting desperate if averaging is the best argument they can muster. Chalk up another win for doctors and patients.

Jockeying has begun going into the special session of Florida Legislature aimed at cutting the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors.

Fighting for their own interests are Gov. Jeb Bush, lawmakers, doctors, lawyers and insurance companies.

Bush called the second special session since the regular session adjourned a month ago for June 16 to cap pain and suffering awards to aggrieved patients at $250,000.

He said if the Legislature doesn’t come through he will call special sessions “again and again.”

President Bush, the governor’s older brother, is making a similar push on a national level, and the fight has become an industry. Both sides, insurance companies and trial lawyers paid more than $10 million to both major parties and state candidates in 2002 and there is more on the way.

In a letter delivered to the governor Monday, the state’s largest malpractice insurer, First Professional Insurance Company, promised to lower its rates by 20 percent if Jeb Bush’s bill is passed.

Bush has already said he wants a provision in the law, forcing a 20 percent cut in rates.

Doctors say they can’t afford to pay the high rates of malpractice insurance that they say are the results of huge court awards against doctors. Some of the physicians have withheld their services, others have threatened to move out of the state.

Lawyers argue that the insurance companies are likely to use the average, and lower rates for low-risk specialists and keep them high for the more high-risk practices such as neurosurgeons and obstetrician-gynecologists.

Lame. Very lame.

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