PERRICONE: What Louisiana’s Billboards Are Telling Us

I heard a sick joke the other day. It went like this: “You know why Louisiana has so many lawyers on billboards? Because they all can’t fit on the ground.”

Corny joke? Yes, but a true underlying fact supports it.

If you have driven on any major highway in Louisiana in the past few years, you have witnessed a proliferation of Tort/Personal injury lawyers billboards sprout up like Kudzu grass. Every one praying (preying) that if you are squashed in an auto accident, you will dial their easy-to-remember number and get all that’s coming to you, courtesy of the mythical bottomless money pit called the insurance company. But there’s a truth being concealed from the people of Louisiana who dare drive on this state’s streets. Namely, there is a perverted symbiotic relationship between plaintiff attorneys, insurance defense attorneys and the legal Ponzi schemes,known as insurance companies. And don’t expect the Louisiana Legislature to pass any curative legislation anytime soon.

It won’t. Not now. Not ever.

Why?

Because there is too much money involved to interrupt the parade of lawsuits that make everyone rich, except those who have to write checks to pay their auto premiums every six months or sooner. It’s a sick, corrupt system we have, but without knowledge of its inner workings, the unwashed will continue to bleed auto premiums for an indefinite period of time.

Some states have corrected this and as a result, they all have lower auto premiums than Louisiana. They passed what is known as no-fault insurance, which basically states, your file a claim against YOUR insurance company, if you are hurt, not the tortfeasor. As a direct result of that type of legislation, auto premiums have dropped. But not in Louisiana; every year mine go up and up. I am sure yours does too, if you live in a tort-based state, like Louisiana.

Back to the symbiotic relationship. People are ready to attack the billboard lawyers, for they assault the senses as we drive along the the highways. But what you don’t know is their tango partner, the insurance defense firms, rake in millions of dollars defending those lawsuits. That’s how they can afford lush offices on top of tall buildings in our state’s biggest cities, most notably, New Orleans.

The big firms need the billboard lawyers to file suit, so they can run the clock against their client, the insurance companies. The insurance companies know this and need this so they can have their actuaries calculate higher premiums, as the suits are being filed and processed through the courts.

Here is how it works. One of the first things a shiny new lawyer who goes to work for a large firm learns is how to bill the insurance companies. This is usually in increments of 12 minutes. The billing practices are the life blood of the big firms. It must be done with great attention to detail, lest the partners of those firms will not get their six or seven figure salaries. So, the new lawyer has to acquire this skill,if his services are to be needed at the big firms. The mules must pull the wagon.

Next, the insurance defense attorney must triage the case and request the insurance company to reserve a certain amount of money to be set aside to cover the potential loss and the cost of defense. This is where it gets interesting. The lawyer should be trained enough to determine if liability exists or not and leave the inquiry as to quantum only. But the big firms use the protracted discovery process to run the clock against the insurance companies, regardless of knowing what the eventual outcome will be. It’s a form of soft deception, that the insurance companies know about and tolerate. After all, they have us to pay them premiums into their Ponzi bucket every year.

So, as the large firms run the clock, the plaintiff’s attorneys play the game, too, by sending their clients for the best medical treatment available to support the injury claim. This tango sometimes last at least a year, but can go on for much longer. Both sides get rich and the insurance companies file for premium increases to the Insurance Commissioner, who is supported every election by the Insurance Companies.

Are you feeling fenced off, yet? You should. Even if you are retired and drive less, you are going to pay more. Now does it make sense?

Is there a remedy? Yes. Tort reform. But don’t expect the Louisiana legislature to do anything about it, yet or ever. This is a slimy industry which our legal system tolerates. As they say, “water” or some other substance, flows downhill and guess who is at the bottom of the hill with their check books open? Yep, you and me, who reside in a state which is tort based. Each one of those states with lower insurance premiums don’t have more skilled drivers, they have more skilled and honest legislatures who actually service their constituents.

Did I mention we have mandatory auto insurance in this state? The Ponzi trough must remain full for all those who drink from it.



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