Tort Reform: How These Dirty Words Are Bleaching Your Rights

Currently, the law in Pennsylvania limits how much money personal injury victims can recover when suing those responsible for their injuries. Insurance companies love this rule because it allows them to cap how much money they’re paying out for negligence and other bad behavior. As much as insurance companies enjoy all the money caps on damages save them, they’d like to keep more. Under the banner of “tort reform” industry giants wage battles to manipulate public perception, guide friendly politicians into office and write legislation that eliminates the rights of people to access the civil justice system. Lawyers utilize personal injury resources in Pennsylvania and other states across the country to inform everyday citizens of just how bad these moves can be for them.

Same Tune, Different Town

Insurance companies and doctors say tort reform is a mandatory component of fixing the broken medical malpractice system in Pennsylvania. They argue that tort reform will eliminate frivolous lawsuits, lower healthcare costs and lead to lower insurance premiums. This tune isn’t new – they’ve played it in other states before, including Texas. In 2003, lawmakers squeaked legislation onto the books that capped damages in lawsuits against doctors to $250,000 and lawsuits against hospitals at $750,000. Then Governor Rick Perry lauded the new regulations, claiming they’d reform healthcare in Texas.

Healthcare across the Nation

By 2010, the average coverage premium for family health insurance in Texas was $14,526 – $655 higher than the national average. Doctors and insurance companies didn’t pass those promised savings onto consumers. Surprised?

In fact, while insurance companies and doctors were rallying against medical malpractice lawsuits, payments from malpractice suits fell 11.9 percent. That’s right, according to Public Citizen, medical malpractice payments dropped 11.9 percent between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, healthcare spending increased by 90 percent over the same time period across the nation. Liability insurance premiums – those costs doctors and hospitals contend are crippling their ability to practice medicine – fell in 2009 to a scant 0.40 of 1 percent of total healthcare costs, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank. These figures include all profits and administrative costs as well as fees for litigation.  

All this data points to a simple fact: doctors and insurance companies simply can’t draw a connection between medical malpractice suits and rising healthcare costs. Preventing patients from holding physicians accountable for negligence doesn’t make costs cheaper. In fact, whenever states choose to cap damages, they only increase insurance company profits.  

Pennsylvania bad faith insurance lawyers realize the importance of preserving the rights of people to access the civil justice system. If lawmakers allow the type of civil rights removal masked as reform that happened in Texas to occur in Pennsylvania, dark clouds may be on the horizon. Without the threat of litigation, insurance companies and doctors have no incentive to deal with people honorably and preserve standards of care.  

Links within in content

Pennsylvania bad faith insurance lawyers  

Personal injury resources in Pennsylvania  

Blood on the Lens

“If it bleeds, it leads” is local TV’s aphorism that dictates its belief that fires, car crashes, and shootings lead off the nightly newscast. These stories, of course, are more “visual” and easier to cover than poverty, worker exploitation, and the health care crisis.

But, now and then, it’s hard to find an assortment of adrenaline-enhanced stories. And so it was that WOW-TV’s panicked station manager met with his news director late one afternoon to go over the final line-up for the 6 O’clock news, which, with few variants would be the same news the station would run in its “expanded news coverage” shows over the next 24 hours. The station manager wasn’t happy.

“What do you mean leading off the news with a report that some jokers at the Public Health Service found the cure for AIDS? Weren’t there any accidents? Fires? Murders!”

“Sorry, Boss, there’s nothing out there.”

“NOTHING?! ‘Nothing’ as in ‘no accidents,’ or ‘nothing’ as in ‘You’re about to get a job at Kwik-E-Mart’?!”

“Boss, we really tried. I have five camera crews running around right now.”

“Think you can get two of them to run into each other? We’d pay the hospital bills.”

“Boss, don’t you remember? The union made us agree to a six-month moratorium on stories that involve us maiming our crews just for the sake of ratings?”

“Some union,” the station manager huffed. “Doesn’t even want its members to get more air time.”

“It’s only for six months,” said the news director. “After that, maybe we could cut the brake linings on Unit 3 and have Unit 4 cover it. But for right now, the news scanner is dead.”

“What happened to that fatality on Honeysuckle?”

“By the time we scrambled the chopper, the drivers had exchanged insurance numbers and left.”

“Left!?” thundered the station manager. “No one leaves when there’s a camera crew on the way!”

“Best we could figure out, it was just a few paint scratches.”

“Any of the cars red? If you got there faster, it might  have looked like blood. Check the cops again. They might be covering up something.”

“Sorry, Boss. Even Philly’s not reporting any murders in the past 24 hours.”

“Then go out and shoot someone!” the station manager demanded.

“Sorry, Boss, I can’t do that.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” said the station manager. “Tell Susie Sweetwater to do it. Her ratings are down. This should help.”

“Susie’s in the middle of her reading class right now, and you know how she hates to be disturbed when she’s learning new words.”

“Then Heartthrob! Audiences salivate whenever he’s on. The public would back him even if he had assault weapons and made welsh rarebit out of the Easter Bunny.”

“It’s an hour until air,” the news director reminded the station manager. “Hearthrob’s already in Makeup. They’re darkening his hair tonight.”

“Celebrities!” shouted the station manager. “Audiences love train wrecks, and celebrities do it better than anyone! Find me Lindsay Lohan!”

“We have two crews on her now,” said the news director, “but all she’s doing is drinking and partying. Besides, we’ve done that story five times this month.”

“What about the Jersey Shore morons.”    

“They’re currently destroying what’s left of the Roman civilization, and we can’t afford to send a crew.”

“Get me a fire! Forest. Trailer. Stove. I don’t care!” the station manager demanded, smashing his coffee mug against his desk, and cutting his wrist. “BLOOD!” he shouted. “We have blood!”

“It’s only a scratch,” said the news director.

“It’s blood! And it’s good for a grabber. Grab a producer. Come in with an extreme close-up full-frame, and then pull back to a medium shot. Dissolve to some of the footage of the Vancouver fans rioting when their team lost the Stanley Cup. Here’s your lead: Violence in Canada leads to blood-letting in America.” He paused a moment. “Make sure you run teasers on this every five minutes.”

[Walter Brasch, who once worked with TV, says it’s much safer in print journalism. His latest book is Before the First Snow, which is receiving critical acclaim for its look at the American counterculture.]

News & Notes

The DNC has launched a new website for the presidential campaign.   “The website features web videos and research on John McCain’s support for the Bush agenda and his promise of more of the same., including McCain bragging about voting for the Bush agenda more than 90 percent of the time and noting that he agrees with President Bush on the transcendent issues of the day.  The site also shows President Bush returning the favor, saying he’ll do whatever it takes to help John McCain win and calling him the best candidate to “carry forth his agenda.”  Even President Bush knows that John McCain wouldn’t change Bush’s economic policies.”

The Constitution Party is being accused of bait and switch in Pennsylvania because they have replaced their named candidate on their petitions with that of Bob Barr.  Barr was not the name they put on nominating petitions they circulated to gain ballot access.  Voters are upset.

Former Third CD candidate Steve Porter has been tossed from the ballot as an independent candidate because he helped people fill in his petitions.  The law regarding nominating petitions is quite clear and strict:  voters must fill in all the information themselves.  It’s amazing how many campaigns don’t understand this.  If you don’t are you smart enough to be a Congressman?  In too many areas of the state the answer is yes.

Gov. Rendell has renewed Pennsylvania’s option for abstinence only sex education.  Most states have now opted out of the failed program.  In light of recent news this seems an unforgivable lapse of judgment.

The ACLU is saying Pennsylvania Pardons officials are lying to released prisoners, telling them that as convicted felons they cannot vote.  They can.

Barack Obama reportedly will  campaign in Lancaster tomorrow and Joe Biden will be in Langhorne.  Since it seems they are no longer sending me information that’s all I have.  Biden is one of those chiefly responsible for allowing predatory lending practices by banks.