La Satira News Service

With the ever-increasing cost of legal fees–and the ever-increasing probability of becoming involved in litigation–Congress is proposing to require individuals as well as businesses to take out insurance policies to cover the costs of legal care.

“With the increasing litigiousness of today’s society, the question is not whether you will need a lawyer, but when,” said Congressman William W. Williams, Jr., (Republicrat, Metropolis) as he introduced the bill.  “It’s absolutely tragic how much of the average person’s income is being gobbled up by legal fees.”

The goal of the legislation, according to supporters, is to ensure households are not left without legal protection in the event of catastrophic litigation.  The insurance would also cover smaller legal fees, such as the costs associated with making wills or court appearances.

“This bill will ensure people get the legal coverage they need, when they need it,” Congressman Williams declared at a gathering of personal injury lawyers.  “It will also help relieve the burden on already underfunded programs like Litig-aid and Liti-care.”

One controversial element of the plan is its requirement that employers help foot the bill for insurance premiums.  Proponents point out the rising premiums for such insurance, which are often beyond the affordability of the lowest earners.  Critics point to the financial burden imposed by employers’ own liability coverage and suggest that this will provide a motive for businesses to dispose of employees who are more likely to engage in legally risky behavior like providing assistance in emergencies, driving, undergoing medical procedures, responding to pharmaceuticals advertised on television, engaging in physical exercise, eating out, using home appliances, reading the labels on packaged food, hosting childrens’ birthday parties, appearing on daytime television, or buying coffee from fast-food restaurants.

Others oppose the bill on the grounds that it might open the gates to a flood of frivolous litigation.  “As lawsuit-crazy as the country is at present, I’m not sure we can afford to remove the last financial hurdle to unfettered access to the legal system,” said Lincoln V. Douglas, general counsel of the anti-litigation advocacy group Lawyer-Be-Gone.  “Can you imagine a world where every traffic ticket can be challenged to the highest level, or where baseless lawsuits can be filed with no risk to the supposed plantiff?  Can you imagine the cost to defendants to protect themselves from infinite lawsuits, or for that matter the cost to the public to provide courts to deal with the flood of litigation?”  Mr. Douglas suggested the bill could accelerate the country toward the Morgan Threshhold, the point at which such a high percentage of the GDP is spent on litigation that the economy becomes incapable of supporting productive activity.

Public opinion seems split on the matter.  Polls indicate some degree of concern about the mandatory nature of the requirement, while others suggest the bill would ensure adequate legal representation by those with lower incomes.  “Why should ‘potential defendants’ worry about frivolous lawsuits?” wondered Ogden Saunders.  “As long they’ve got insurance–which they would have, with a mandatory requirement–they’ll be covered.”

One thing that’s missing in the debate, according to Francis N. Earnest of the nonpartisan think-tank Campaign for a Saner America, is a discussion of the philosophy of insurance in general.  “Originally insurance was about risk management, or how to reduce the risk of an unexpected catastrophe,” said Mr. Earnest.  “These days the insurance question seems to be more about how to get someone else to pay all my expenses, including the routine ones.  Having insurance to pay for routine things just adds a middleman, making the whole system less efficient.”

While the bill is expected to pass narrowly and be signed into law, it may face a number of legal challenges before it can take effect.

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Copyright 2012.  That’s right:  you saw it here first.


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