What Damage Caps Really Mean to Iowans

Posted on February 6, 2023 at 1:26 PM by The Biker Lawyers

The Truth about Proposed Iowa Legislation (HSB 114)

Be concerned when politicians want to take away your rights. Be even more concerned when they try to convince you it’s a good idea. Hit the panic button when they use deception and manipulation to try and get their way.

 

Article overview (TL;DR)

  • Proposed legislation HSB 114 limits the rights of citizens to recover more than $1 million in noneconomic damages in lawsuits against commercial trucking companies in Iowa.

  • Noneconomic damages are related to quality of life, such as permanent injury or loss of a loved one.

  • “Nuclear verdicts” over $1 million in Iowa are rare and only awarded when necessary.

  • The legislation is pushed by politicians and trucking executives to benefit the trucking industry and lower their insurance coverage, saving money.

  • This tradeoff could have devastating effects on families affected by accidents with commercial trucks.

  • Call your Iowa legislator to express opposition to the legislation at (515)281-3221.

Proposed legislation would strip away the rights of ordinary Iowans

This week proposed legislation was re-introduced in the Iowa (HSB 114)  legislature that would strip away the rights of ordinary Iowans in favor of commercial trucking companies. The same legislation was pushed a year ago but ended up where it should have: In the garbage can.

Limitation of Right to Recover Noneconomic Damages in Lawsuits Against Commercial Trucking Companies

This new bill would limit the right of Iowans to recover more than $1 million in noneconomic damages in a lawsuit against a commercial trucking company. So what are noneconomic damages?

Think quality of life losses. Think about somebody who will never walk again. Think about children who have lost their parents. Think about people who can no longer care for themselves. These are all examples of noneconomic damages.

Why You Should Care About This Proposed Legislation

Verdicts over a million dollars in Iowa are rare. When an Iowa jury enters a verdict of a million dollars or more you can be confident that it was the right thing to do.

Why should you care if this proposed legislation turns into law? While most of us will never be in a serious crash with a commercial trucking rig, it is an absolute guarantee that some of us will.

When a car or motorcycle gets hit by a commercial trucking rig, things usually turn out very badly for those in the smaller vehicle. If it’s our family or friends who are horribly injured or killed, we want them to be paid fairly for their losses.

Deception in the Name of “Nuclear” Verdicts

The legislators and trucking executives behind this bill want you to believe it’s necessary to rein in “nuclear” verdicts. Every article you read about this legislation will quote a legislator or trucking company executive talking about “nuclear” verdicts.

This is the manipulation I was referring to in the title. These legislators and executives talk about “nuclear” verdicts because they learned that everybody thinks “nuclear” verdicts are bad. They then talk about “nuclear” verdicts every time they are asked about this legislation.

Every time you hear these legislators or executives say “nuclear verdicts,” realize they are trying to manipulate you. Take the rest of what they say for what it is worth.

Lack of Evidence for “Nuclear” Verdicts in Iowa

Nobody is claiming there are “nuclear” verdicts in Iowa against trucking companies. Yet, according to the lobbyist for the trucking industry (David Scott), the legislation is necessary to “bring some fairness to nuclear verdicts around the country.”

This is what I mean about deception: An Iowa law will have absolutely zero effect on verdicts “around the country.” Do we pass laws in Iowa based on problems that do not exist in our own state? This guy must take us all for idiots.

The proposed legislation is truly a solution in search of a problem.

In Iowa, and in other states, there are rules that help make sure that when someone is hurt and goes to court, the money they are awarded is fair and makes sense. If a jury gives too much money or the amount is not reasonable, the judge can use some special tools to fix it.

One of the tools is called a “post-trial motion”. This is like asking the judge to take another look at the jury’s decision and to make sure it is correct. Another tool is called a “remittitur.” This is when the judge tells the jury to reduce the amount of money they decided on because it is too much. Finally, there is a tool called “appellate review,” which is when the losing party can ask a higher court to review the decision made by the lower court.

All of these tools are there to help make sure that the person who was hurt gets the right amount of money, not too much or too little. This way, they can use that money to help them get better and take care of themselves.

Trucking Industry Prioritizing Profits Over Individual Rights

I will give the trucking industry lobbyist a small nod of credit for not lying to us and claiming this abomination of legislation is needed to lower the price of insurance premiums. Insurance rates in Iowa for commercial trucking companies are among the very lowest in the country.

Instead, the lobbyist claims the law is needed to “provide a known level of exposure.”

But wait, isn’t that what insurance is for? We all buy it. If we have a lot to protect, we buy a bigger insurance policy.

A kid fresh out of school with very little to protect will usually buy a minimal insurance policy.

A multi-million dollar commercial trucking company has a lot to protect. Let these companies make decisions on the level of insurance to buy based on what they have to protect, and their knowledge of the horrific losses caused to families when their trucks kill or maim.

Insurance is how we “provide a known level of exposure.”

The trucking industry simply does not want to have to buy an insurance policy greater than a million dollars to protect against the quality of life losses of those of us who are harmed.

One legislator (Phil Thompson of Boone) claims that “every time a commercial motor vehicle is involved in an accident, some people see dollar signs.”

Shame on you Phil.

What people see after being involved in a crash with a commercial trucking rig are hospitals, doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

People see medical bills and lots of them.

They can’t work, which makes things worse.

The legislation itself is about dollar signs. The trucking industry will make more money than they already do if this legislation passes. It is hypocrisy to try and justify this trash legislation by claiming people see dollar signs when they get crushed by a commercial trucking rig.

If a trucking company’s liability for quality of life losses is limited to one million dollars, that means they only have to buy $1 million in insurance coverage. So the trucking industry saves a few bucks on its insurance bill. The tradeoff will be horrific for families devastated by crashes with commercial trucking rigs.

Conclusion

The proposed legislation in Iowa (HSB 114) would limit the right of Iowans to recover more than $1 million in noneconomic damages in a lawsuit against a commercial trucking company. Noneconomic damages include quality of life losses such as loss of mobility or care, loss of a parent, etc. The trucking industry and legislators behind this bill claim it is necessary to rein in “nuclear” verdicts, but there is no evidence of such verdicts in past verdicts in Iowa, ever.

The real reason for this legislation is to limit the amount of insurance coverage trucking companies would have to buy, thereby increasing profits. This legislation is a tradeoff between trucking company profits and individual rights, and it is being justified through manipulation and deception. People who oppose this legislation should contact their legislators immediately.

Take Action to Protect Your Rights

If you don’t like the tradeoff between trucking company profits and individual rights this legislation would make, call your legislator at 515-281-3221.

If you prefer emailing your thoughts to your legislator, click here to find your Iowa legislator and make your voice heard.

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