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'Personal-Injury Justice'

January 24, 1986

Richard A. Wiebe's article (Editorial Pages, Jan. 6), "Apply Malpractice Reforms to Personal-Injury Justice," ruined my morning coffee.

Wiebe's premise appears to be that there is a "liability crisis" that is making all of the personal-injury lawyers in the world rich, and all of the insurance companies poor. While that premise is ridiculous, at least it is something that an insurance person could argue about by resorting to some statistical information, if in fact that kind of information exists at all. But instead of producing some kind of hard evidence to support his unsupportable premise, Wiebe resorts to the worse kind of mudslinging, sprinkled liberally with misrepresentations.

Wiebe's attack is as clever as it is vicious. First, there is a "crisis." Insurance companies who have more dough than the banks are being mugged by greedy accident victims who have the utter audacity to make claims when they have been injured through the negligence of others. This "crisis" has been going on for decades and decades, ever since some insurance company genius decided that huge profits could be made selling liability insurance. The concept was simple and still is: take in as many premium dollars as you can, and fight like hell against paying off the claims. If you lose some claims, why, raise the premiums! Better yet, defeat the claim and raise the premiums too. What a business!

As lawyers got more sophisticated through the years and more able at the art of advocacy, I am sure that it began to cost these insurance carriers more money than it used to. But Wiebe and his 175 insurance companies have a better idea than raising premiums or by being more selective on who they insure. They have come up with the all-time money-making scheme in history: abolish the contingency fee, or at least make an effort to limit the fees that attorneys routinely charge.

You see, if you get rid of the contingency fee, 95% of all injured persons could not afford to get an attorney and most claims would disappear, resulting in insurance company profits beyond belief.

Another little hit from Wiebe is the idea of the "jury jackpot." Wiebe would have you believe that juries routinely hand out millions of dollars either because juries are ignorant and/or they act out of pure "sympathy." Wiebe's article is a slap in the face to every person who ever did jury duty, and to our system of justice, which unquestionably is the greatest on Earth.

NED P. REILLY

Santa Ana

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