The SE Texas Record May 31, 2016, 9:44am


Arbitration is the storm-chasing attorney's worst nightmare.

It makes him superfluous and reduces his opportunities. He can't round up hundreds of clients after every severe weather event and sue an insurance company for exaggerated or nonexistent damages on their behalf if those would-be clients have agreed to submit to arbitration in return for discounted policy payments.

He must oppose arbitration, but he has to be discreet about it. He can't be seen as acting in his own self-interest. That would be gauche and, more important, ineffective.

John Q. Public might be persuaded to support a campaign to save the seals, but the plight of the endangered trial lawyer is not likely to move him.

For instance, an appeal like this would be ill-advised:

“For years, the Texas Department of Insurance has turned a blind eye to the unscrupulous practices of certain Texas trial lawyers. But a proposed new policy would deprive such attorneys of one of their most successful tactics for enriching themselves at the expense of others.”

Such an appeal might be truthful, but would not serve their cause. What's needed is something more along these lines:

“For years, the Texas Department of Insurance has rightfully stood by Texas consumers by rejecting policies with dangerous binding arbitration clauses. But, a policy recently submitted to TDI would strip unaware consumers of their constitutional rights in exchange for a small discount.”

John Q. and his fellow citizens might wish to get on board this bandwagon, because it's not about helping trial lawyers get richer: it's about helping consumers protect their rights.

That’s the spin message of Texas Watch, a trial lawyer trade group masquerading as a consumer protection organization.

Here's the truth: Consumers will not be stripped of any rights if the new policy is implemented. They will be given the option of paying less for coverage if they agree to arbitration in case of a dispute – that is, if they leave out the lawyers.

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