ANSWERED: What is Tort Reform and Will It Lower Insurance Costs?
As the 2020 legislative session nears, the issue of tort reform has once again taken the top spot on the lists of priorities for many Republican state legislators. Supporters of a tort reform bill sponsored by state senator Kirk Talbot say current state law benefits trial attorneys and requires that plaintiffs sue for at least $50,000 to be guaranteed a jury trial. Louisiana is an outlier in that sense. On the other side, tort reform has never been a priority of Governor Edwards and many of his supporters who have proposed other measures to lower the cost of auto insurance.
Truth is, there is not a definitive answer on what insurance premiums would do even if tort reform passes. It's a political debate at this point with lawmakers on both sides supposedly working to lower rates. Like many other hot-button issues, tort reform was a key issue on the campaign trail, but many Louisiana voters don't even know what it is.
By definition, tort reform is "Tort reform is a group of ideas that are designed to change the laws of the civil justice system so that tort litigation and damages are reduced."
Supporters of tort reform say factors such as the state's $50,000 jury threshold is keeping insurance companies from doing business in Louisiana and therefore driving up prices. Jeff Albright, CEO of the trade organization Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana, says the larger impact is the inability for commercial clients to get automobile policies for work vehicles. He even said the running joke in Louisiana is "get in a wreck and get a check". In an interview with KPEL, he talked of a particular logging company that moved its operation north to Mississippi.
Senate President Page Cortez says a shake-up on the Judiciary A committee, which has killed tort reform in the past, means the bill will get fair debate and a likely vote by the full Senate. If passed, the bill would still have to go to the Governor to be signed into law.
We'll be covering this issue closely as it affects both individual policyholders and businesses in the state of Louisiana. Follow the latest on the KPEL News app.