We see the advertisements in newspapers and magazines. They are paid for by the insurance companies appealing to the public who may serve on juries. Every time we award a plaintiff a settlement in an accident case, we are only hurting ourselves. It isn't the insurance companies who will suffer, we are told, but the public, because when we decide in favor of the plaintiff the companies have no choice but to raise our rates.
I don't know about you, but the advertisements have persuaded me.
I have this fantasy that I'm on the jury of a giant negligence case. We've heard all the evidence and we are now back in the jury room trying to arrive at a verdict.
The foreman of the jury speaks first. "All right. This is an open and shut case. The truck driver rammed into the victim's car killing both parents and leaving four orphans. The evidence indicated the brakes on the truck were faulty and the trucking company sent it out on the road anyway. How much money do we award the children?"
"Wait," I cry. "There's more at stake than that. What about the trucking company's insurance people? What will happen to them if we award a sizeable sum of money to the children?"
"They'll have to pay it," a juror says.
"But it will eventually come out of our pockets -yours and mine."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Don't you read the ads?" I said. "Every time a jury awards a large sum of money to the victims of an accident, we, the public, have to eventually pay for it. The insurance companies are't in business for their health."
"What are they in business for?" another juror wants to know.
"To served the public. They collect premiums from all of us to protect our lives and property. As long as they don't have to pay off, they can build skyscrapers, invest in the stock market, float real estate loans and sponsor some of the best programs on television. But if they have to start paying off on their policies they can get in serious financial difficulties, and then we, the policy holders, have to bail them out."
"Are you saying we shouldn't award the plaintiff's in this case any money because the insurance company will get hurt?"
I reply, "All I'm saying is we should think about it carefully . Why should we punish a poor insurance company, which, if it loses the case, will only punish us?"
"That's what insurance companies are for," a juror retorts. "They're supposed to take risks. The insurance business is nothing more than a giant crap game, and it's their job to pay off when they lose."
"That is exactly the attitude that is driving insurance rates up all over the country. Every time a case gets to court we say, 'Let's the insurance company pay through the nose.' Why can't we be the first jury to say, 'Enough is enough. We will not reward people for negligence committed by another party.' Don't you see? We have it in our power to stop spiraling insurance costs once and for all."
"What have you been smoking?" one of the jurors asks.
"All right," I shout. "I'll go along with whatever award you want to make. But when the insurance company has to sell its employes' golf course to pay for this case, it will be on the conscience of every person in this room."