Tort reform opponents tout rights of plaintiffs; Access at issue

Business Insurance
Monday, February 16, 2004

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, say tort reform opponents.

In fact, they claim that tort reform is unnecessary because the existing
legal system works well and does what it's supposed to, which is to give injured citizens an accessible and fair means for righting wrongs and stemming future harm, say tort reform opponents.

That argument might rile many risk managers and insurers struggling to stem claims losses, but tort reform opponents battle for public opinion by
emphasizing how the current system-in their view-benefits society and consumers.

Reform opponents also argue that reforms such a caps on damage awards
resulting from medical malpractice lawsuits do not lead to lower insurance

''The premiums that doctors are being charged are not related at all to
actual claims payouts,'' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York. ''They are driven by the insurance cycle.''

Rates rise during a hard market based on insurers' investment returns and
competition in the insurance market, Ms. Doroshow argued. She noted that she spends much of her time researching insurance issues.

Reform opponents also like to point out that medical malpractice insurers
have asked for rate hikes in several states following the adoption of caps on damage awards for medical malpractice cases.

So capping such damages does nothing to help doctors struggling with
insurance costs, Ms. Doroshow said. Instead, she said, state insurance
commissioners need to control fluctuating insurance rates.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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