In the weeks leading up to the legislative session, I was intrigued by some of the debate over the lawsuit reform issue. I really had not paid that much attention to it until Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out his legislation, and then it was strongly supported by legislative leadership. State Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola, my state senator, has been a strong advocate for lawsuit reform over the years.
I decided to do more research and was very interested to learn that Floridians were paying some of the nation’s highest insurance premiums. Florida has a lot of great records that we can be proud of, but paying the highest auto, home, and health insurance premiums are not something that should make any of us proud. Having felt the pinch in higher costs of living myself over the past couple of years, I am glad for anything to be done to lower those costs.
But what would higher insurance costs have to do with lawsuits?
As I researched, I picked up on a few tidbits that helped me understand the process and how lawsuit reform might relate to higher insurance. In Florida, we had incentives in place that would incline medical financing companies to invest in personal injury lawsuits, knowing that our legal system tends to reward plaintiffs with advantages that encourage companies to settle quickly for large sums or be faced with more exposure. These lawsuit financiers were pretty much getting a guaranteed high percentage return on their money. That all sounds great for the financiers, but the problem is that incentivizing lawsuits as part of a financial investment scheme hits all of the ratepayers for various insurances directly in the wallet.
The way that laws were written before this legislative session, personal injury victims had an incentive to decline their insurance proceeds and assume all liability for recovery and rehab procedures, looking for the legal pot at the end of the rainbow. Some enterprising attorneys would then work with willing providers to inflate the price tag of billed procedures in court, knowing they are likely to win and to be compensated on the basis of those inflated price tags.
For example, a “$20,000 procedure” might normally only cost an estimated $5,000, but with a little inflated cost and with Florida juries often being prevented from knowing the full picture of the damages, a jury may award vastly more money to a plaintiff than what is warranted. The higher damages, based on inflated information, is passed along to every insurance premium payer. So what I have come to understand is that all of Florida’s families are victims of this kind of lawsuit abuse, and our state legislators did the right thing by prioritizing action in this past legislative session.
I want to thank DeSantis for what he did to lead the way and for making Florida lead the nation in something that we can truly be proud of: principled reform for all.
I think we could use that same kind of thinking in every state in America.
Sarah Geisrich is a political activist and community volunteer. A lifelong resident of Florida who is based out of Pensacola, she is part of the Transforming Florida network.
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