Louisiana’s expensive auto insurance rates are symptomatic of public policy favored by trial lawyers that typically result in anti-business settlements, according to a citizen watchdog group that favors new legislation.
State premiums average $2,453 a year, a report from insure.com shows. This means Louisiana is the second most expensive state in the entire nation, right behind Michigan, which is at $2,541 per year. Although a variety of factors may be responsible for the high costs, Louisiana’s high threshold for jury trials stands out as the primary culprit, Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch (LLAW), argues.
Under current law, either party in a civil proceeding only has the right to request a trial before a jury when the amount involved in the dispute exceeds $50,000. In those cases where the amount does not exceed $50,000, a judge, rather than a jury, determines the verdict. This is a problem, Landry said, because Louisiana elects its judges.
“We are concerned that there may be a tendency for judges to rule in favor of their constituents, instead of the defendants, regardless of the evidence,” she suggested. “Most of the people who contribute to judicial campaigns are attorneys. That’s why we prefer to have a trial by jury with a variety of perspectives, instead of one judge who may be biased.”
High Jury Threshold
LLAW has been in touch with several state lawmakers who have expressed in interest in advancing legislation that would lower the jury trial threshold to the point where it is more in step with other states.
“We have the highest jury trial threshold in the entire nation by far,” Landry said. “Some states don’t have any threshold at all and they view it as a fundamental right to have a trial by jury.”
Public sentiment is strongly weighted in favor of lawsuit reform, according to a survey LLAW released earlier this year.
Too Many Lawsuits
Some of the key findings are as follows:
- 65 percent said there are too many lawsuits in Louisiana.
- 69 percent agreed lawsuit abuse co