President Reagan has endorsed in full the recommendations of an administration task force on the liability insurance crisis, and will announce this week that he plans to submit legislation to Congress, according to White House officials.
Among the recommendations Reagan has accepted are limits on attorneys' fees and restrictions on damages and damage awards for "pain and suffering," the officials said.
In a report presented to the president March 17, the task force, headed by Assistant Attorney General Richard K. Willard, documented an intensifying crisis in liability insurance with escalating premiums, insurance shortages and skyrocketing damage awards.
The task force found that a "veritable explosion" in the definition of "liability" has led to the problem, as have insurance industry losses caused by underpriced coverage sold in the 1970s. The group said that the insurance industry's economic difficulties should not be addressed by the government, but called for a number of revisions in the current tort system, under which claims of damage from a broad variety of injuries are adjudicated in the courts.
The causes of the liability insurance crisis are being intensely debated in Washington, and some consumer-oriented advocates have said the problem lies primarily with decisions made by the insurance industry rather than with the legal system.
But other experts say the expanding legal definition of "liability" by judges, juries and legislators has required professionals such as doctors, many businesses and local governments to compensate injured people more readily and in greater amounts than before.
Higher awards have pushed up premiums and in some cases insurance is not available, sharply curtailing services such as obstetrics and child day care, and increasing the cost of others.
The task force did not recommend specific legislation, and White House officials said it may be several weeks before the administration comes forward with its own bills. But Reagan intends to endorse the report's conclusions and overall recommendations in a statement shortly, they said.
The recommendations, many of which relate to state laws, included a return to a "fault-based standard of liability," or restricting the liability to whoever is found at fault. The panel also called for basing findings on "credible scientific and medical opinions and evidence," saying that one of the most "pernicious" developments of recent years has been the use of "fringe" medical and scientific opinions.
Another recommendation would be to curtail sharply the use of "joint and several liability" under which any one of several parties can be held liable for the damage caused by one incident.
Meanwhile, the president and Mrs. Reagan attended Easter church services today at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church near Solvang, Calif. The services came five years to the day of the attempt to assassinate him. It was the first time Reagan has attended church in a year.