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Civil Suit Damages

There are cases where civil law suits are appropriate and even necessary, but our courts are filled with suits motivated by vengeance and runaway greed. When a family loses a child or an adult loses a parent due to medical error or other mistake, acceptance of a large settlement is not appropriate. A loved one was lost; money was not lost. If a criminal act was involved, criminal charges should be pursued. If a physician makes a mistake, it should be documented in his record and reviewed by a certifying/de-certifying board, and the appropriate action should be taken.

Where the family member lost was a breadwinner for the family, replacement compensation is appropriate. If continuing suffering and continuing medical costs are caused, compensation is again appropriate.

Attorneys are too heavily compensated for their deeds and misdeeds. Attorney compensation should be reviewed and adjusted by the court after any settlement (in or out of court). Such a review should be made against a set of guidelines established by law.

The large settlements do serve the public interest in discouraging companies from continuing practices which carry unannounced and/or unreasonable risk of injury or other adverse health effects.  We can fill voids in this area by laws which assign lengthy prison sentences to company officials who conceal serious risks to company employees and/or the public.  We should strengthen "whistle blower" protection and reward provisions to support this effort.

The cost of medical malpractice insurance has driven many physicians from practice.  Reducing awards will help.  We must also prevent gouging by the insurance companies.  Legislation helping medical practitioners to form self insurance combines should be investigated.

In the case of insurance companies which make a practice of avoiding and/or delaying appropriate payments, triple damages would be appropriate. In fact, in any civil suit involving payment by an insurance company (whether brought by an insured or another damaged party), the court should be required to consider the question, "Did the insurance company act in good faith?" If the answer is No, triple damages should be awarded. Many insurance companies deny valid claims, delay payment, enter lowball offers, make phony accusations against the claimant, and take other egregious actions with the assurance that, if they eventually lose, they will only have to pay what they should have paid on day one. Most victims give up and accept a lowball offer, making it a lucrative game for insurance companies.

State departments of insurance are supposed to regulate insurance companies and punish such acts. I can tell you from personal experience that the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODOI) has refused to take any action against the major insurance companies through the Voinovich and Taft administrations.  Since my experience with the ODOI, I have followed complaints against insurance companies and state DOIs. The pattern is that, if the
DOI is controlled by a Republican governor, it will do the bidding of the insurance companies.