Straight Up with Sherri

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tort Reform: Is it About Compensation and Restitution or About Punishment?

Many people are sleeping their way through this issue, or just listening to emotional driven propaganda and false arguments. The comments so far have been hitting on some GREAT points. Most of the people I know think that tort reform is only about doctors, malpractice insurance, and caps. We will certainly hit all these, but in general the "hype" is just that- HYPE!

Understanding where one needs to stand on this has to start with determining our stand on liberty. Then understanding if we are interested in punishing those found negligent (or guilty) OR compensating those hurt or injured. RWNJ hits this in a great way. There is a huge difference between pain and suffering, and punitive damages. The anonymous commenter also hits on a vital point. The propaganda does NOT fit the facts for most cases. There are too many people debating this issue that use sound bite material that is targeted at getting people riled up and WE are NOT checking into the facts.

One point not brought up yet is caps. Why caps? Why caps for only "special" groups (such as doctors, hospitals, etc.)? If I lose a leg, I don't care if it is due to a drunk driver or a careless "health professional." The cause will NOT minimize my "pain and suffering," yet there is a difference in the degree of punishment that should be inflicted upon the one who caused it. We also need to evaluate, in the case of a health care professional, was the "mistake" due to too many martinis at lunch, or was it due to stressful work conditions, lack of good sound policy, etc. I also take issue with some of the ways that we calculate "loss of wages." Some proposed bills for tort reform want to eliminate "pain and suffering" all together when it comes to a "medical" scenario.

As for attorney fees. This is where the frivolous issue comes in. I have no problem with an attorney taking their cut. I know, as a "poor single mom" this sounds shocking. I don't buy into the "class envy" malarky. Attorney fees is called "Capitalism" and "Free Enterprise" ideology. These fees are between the attorney and his client, NOT the attorney and the GOVERNMENT! This is where I feel I am staunchly HARD conservative. I do however take issue with HUGE cash payoffs to attorneys in "class action" suits. (where the attorneys walk away with millions and people not even knowing they are listed in a case end up with $5 coupons from UPS) We do need to address the fact that attorneys are willing to engage in frivolous and legitimate suits without "good faith." We should also discuss if attorneys are eligible for a cut in cash awards for punitive damages. (I have to admit I agree with RWNJ on this issue- punitive damages should be jail time- but if we don't win that argument- we need to know where we stand in the next phase.)

As you can see- this is a VERY complicated issue. There are MANY facets and turns and twists to address. We need to make tort reform happen, but we do NOT need to pass it just for the sake of passing it. We need to take an HONEST look at what we want to actually ACHIEVE, then figure out the best way to get there. When people start talking about this issue, the first question should be- "What do you want to achieve?" This is VITAL! Many elected officials want to achieve publicity and adoration from their constituency. Others want to PUNISH trial lawyers. Others want to protect doctors. Some may even just have an axe to grind with the guys across the aisle. We as voters need to be the responsible ones here. If we just let it up to them (the politicians), we (America), will lose.

I will be covering this topic for a while. There are way too many parts to this to cover in one day. It may even take longer than a week. It is too important to rush through. Keep the comments coming, and let me know what you think should be the STARTING point for this topic. It is so HUGE- it is tough to know where to start. I trust ya'll to help discern this.


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