Tort Reformers at it Again!

A fight is brewing between the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association (“CTLA”). This fight regards common sense increases to damage caps in Colorado. Senate Bill 19-109, sponsored by Senator Fenberg (D-Boulder), and Representative Garnett (D-Denver) is headed for Committee and Floor votes in the House.

Senate Bill 19-109’s main focus is to raise the capped amounts an individual can claim for harm. The current limitations on the amount of damages for unlawfully serving alcohol, noneconomic loss or injury, and wrongful death were last adjusted for inflation back on January 1, 2008.  

Caps Haven’t Been Raised Since 2008

CTLA researched the recent history of the Caps. CTLA found that last two inflation based cap increase occurred in 1998, and then in 2008, the Colorado legislature increased some caps by inflation to the level they are now. The 2008 increase do not account for current inflation. But Senate Bill 19-109 seeks to bring these caps inline with current inflation. The Bill also looks to remain consistent with inflation by adjusting each January 1 every two years after the enactment.

Current Damage Caps

Again, the current caps were adjusted for inflation back in 2008. The caps have not kept pace with the present economic climate. The following are the current caps and proposed increases: 

Current non-economic damages cap – $468,010

  • Anticipated new cap adjusted for inflation $584,210

Current dram shop/social host cap – $280,810

  • Anticipated new cap adjusted for inflation – $350,550

Current wrongful death cap – $468,010

  • Anticipated new cap adjusted for inflation $584,210

Current solatium cap – $87,210

  • Anticipated new cap adjusted for inflation $108,840

Make no mistake, this is not a “free payday” for trial lawyers as some of the Tort Reform crowd pretend. This is about ensuring injured Coloradoans receive the benefit of their bargain. The benefit that they pay for every month by paying insurance premiums, which is supposed to protect and compensate them if they are injured.

The ATRA, however, is fighting this bill under the guise of raising premiums.

The Rising Premiums Boogeyman

ATRA recently posted an ad trying to focus the consumer on rising premiums. The ad shows a young man who appears to be working on his cars engine, and reads:

Cost of living increases each and every year for hardworking Coloradans — and you’ll see your current insurance devalued and face higher premiums just to keep the same protections you have today if we don’t stop S.B. 109. . . . oppose S.B. 109 and prevent increases in your insurance premiums.

Let’s talk facts: auto insurance premiums nationally have outpaced the average consumer price index (CPI). Nearly three times, in-fact. Across the board, insurance companies are seeing record profits (just search for insurance company CEO pay–prepare to see a lot of trailing zeros). ATRA fails to mention those figures. So let’s focus on the real issue. 

Further, seven of the 10 least expensive states for car insurance do not have caps! Wait, what? That’s right. North Carolina, for instance, has the lowest auto insurance rates, but it doesn’t have a cap on damages. 

This fight isn’t about the potential of rising rates, it’s about preventing consumers from getting the benefit of their bargain: insurance companies do not want to pay claims on policies that they write. 

The ATRA’s Fight is Not About Consumer Price Savings 

As the example set forth above, this is not about keeping premiums down for consumers. This is about maximizing profits for insurance companies. This fight is simply to avoid paying injured Coloradoans. 

This is why I joined the CTLA. This is another example of insurance companies, powerful corporate interest, and their lobbyist trying to prevent due process for injured consumers.

Get Involved

Contact your local Representative and urge a “Yes” vote on SB 19-109 for a common sense increase to damage caps. Put more money in the pockets of injured Coloradoans. After all, they paid for it!