It is the time of year when self-serving articles appear in newspapers and advertisements are on television placed by attorneys trolling for clients who are promised great riches for the sometimes real and frequently not so real but creatively alleged injury they claim to have suffered. A typical case takes three and a half years to conclude. Whether at the expense of personal liability insurance coverage, or the enormous cost of defensive medicine to protect against malpractice claims, both of which we all pay for in the form of higher medical and liability insurance rates, this fraternity is undeterred to dip into the pot of money our inherently dangerous sport offers. Their financial risk is limited, the rewards great.
As we get ready for the season, now is the time to confirm our liability insurance is adequate to protect our assets. If involved in an incident, then make sure the initial report to the Ski Patrol includes all facts clearly and unambiguously. Resist the temptation to hire personal counsel at the advice of well meaning friends and family. If you do, then do not sign up with one of the white shoe law firms regardless what their local representative promises you. Place your faith in your insurance company appointed attorney. If not satisfied, insist they assign someone you like, but don’t expect him to take care of your personal concerns. His job is to minimize the insurer’s cost and maximize his personal income. Record your recollections carefully at the outset and store them in a safe place. Then, try to forget the whole thing.
The Colorado Legislature might consider the following: Mediation is already part of the settlement process, if rejected the case automatically goes to court. No back room deals can take place after a court date has been set, the jury pool notified with all the cost and dislocation that involves, judges, court schedules and staff, all at taxpayer expense. Also part of this proposal: The loser pays court costs! If plaintiffs are awarded nothing, then they must pay 100 percent; if they initially demand $1 million and get a partial award of, say, $100,000, plaintiffs assume 90 percent of the court cost, the balance the defense; if $500,000, each side pays half, and so on. This will limit claims to an appropriate amount and strengthen the importance of the mediation process. Astronomical injury claims are designed only to snare potential plaintiffs as clients and to maximize trial lawyer income, who collect between 30 and 40 percent of each settlement! How refreshing if Gov. Hickenlooper made this proposal part of his re-election platform? Don’t hold your breath though as the trial bar has been successful in creating a system designed by trial lawyers, for the financial benefit of trial lawyers and which was pushed through a state legislature populated by lawyers.
John Eschenlohr is a retired corporate executive and a 16-year resident of Avon.