The Government May Limit Unwarranted Asbestos Claims with New Legislature

by admin on September 8, 2010

The most difficult part of this question lies in whether or not any form of legislature would be capable of dealing with fraudulent silica-related lawsuits. A freshman house member, who is also a physician, has written a senate bill. This bill is the darling of business interests who are petitioning the legislature to reduce the number of claims. They say these cases are bogging down the entire system. Business groups believe that they are being exploited by fake victims and greedy personal injury lawyers who are in cahoots with doctors who can be bribed into giving generous X ray readings. It is also argued that companies are forced to expend far too many resources on the defense of specious allegations.

There have been some recent changes in tort law that require any new asbestos claims to be heard by a specific judge in each state, and so many personal injury lawyers have used this to show that there is no further need for action by state legislatures. Despite these changes, many doubtful claims have still managed to appear on the court dockets, while other attorneys have begun using silica exposure as a basis for the next round of claims.

Certain business interests contend that the honest claims can be singled out from the fraudulent claims by simply requiring claimants to show proof of physical effects suffered from exposure to asbestos rather than simply producing an X-ray. The proposed bill would ask claimants to meet rigid medical standards prior to filing. They’d have an x ray, breathing test and doctor’s exam.

This bill would also allow workers who were exposed, but have yet to show symptoms, some new protections. One of those protections would be to remove the application of a two year statute of limitations. Anyone who could not meet the medical standard of proof at a particular point in time, but could do so at a later date would have the ability to begin a lawsuit at any point in the future. Insurance companies could not deny coverage to workers who had been harmfully exposed to asbestos in the past.

These measures provide valuable safeguards, but some proponents argue the medical guidelines are too strict. One suggestion is to keep the current standards for determining whether a worker can sue, but to have a judge review the claim first to determine if there is a valid medical claim. The proposed action is designed to protect the rights of workers and also cut back on the number of unfounded claims.

A member of the House points out the problem won’t be solved by increasing medical standards if doctors are lying about their findings, as many of the bill’s advocates are stating. These same doctors would just say whatever needed to be said to keep the case in court. Whatever the motives of either side are, it’s clear that the state should take a real interest in ridding itself of false claims. Those workers who really do have good suits should be helped quickly. The house member’s amendment applies to the house bill, but he believes his idea is deserving of senate consideration as well.


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