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Tort reform accident bill enacted as Louisiana law

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards begrudgingly signaled a legislative bill as new law with a stroke of his pen recently.

Prominent pro-business supporters and advocacy groups, along with Republican lawmakers, were ecstatic that their long-fought attempt to shore up so-called “tort reform” law in the state will now take effect.

Their euphoria is not shared with a large swath of the general public, many researchers who gauge the empirical efforts of tort reform policies on accident victims, and personal injury attorneys. The latter group will now face new challenges in its effort to obtain meaningful recoveries for accident victims injured by third-party negligence.

Tort reform has long been a clarion call for businesses and, especially, insurance companies seeking to cap their liability in accident cases involving negligence. Proponents across the country routinely rail against outsized plaintiff awards and insurance premium spikes they say are directly related. Business owners say that tort reform measures protect their bottom line. Those measures typically embrace tightly capped awards and a formidably high barrier imposed on plaintiffs seeking redress in court.

Considerable research supports a contrary view. Studies have shown that notably large jury awards for injury victims are rare, and that it is exceedingly uncommon for an injured party to even get a case to trial.

And critics of Louisiana’s new law point to this obvious omission in the legislation – no mention at all of any commitment to actually lower premiums in the wake of the savings that insurers will now realize. Edwards himself is on record as noting this lack of any lowered-rate assurance.

The new legislation is projected to take effect on January 1 of next year.