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An Expert or an “Opinionater”

I know it is hard to believe, but I am truly starting the blog with a picture that is related to the subject matter. I know… that is some crazy blogging!

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Please fight through the blog today because there really is a purpose. I mean it!

This is probably more of a sports blog… because I wanted to write about the upcoming NFL draft. But, I am writing it in the context of law.

(Here we go…talking some legal) To be qualified as an expert in a jury trial, you have to be qualified to give an opinion that is beyond common knowledge. The Virginia jury instruction tells jurors:

In considering the weight to be given to the testimony of an expert witness, you should
consider the basis for the opinion and the manner by which the expert arrived at it and the
underlying facts and data relied upon.

Which leads me to the the concept of “experts” as it pertains to NFL football drafting.  (And yes, I do enjoy using the “emphasis quotes” which is probably as irritating as seeing someone using “air quotes” when they talk) Football fans know that it’s almost time for the NFL draft. My email in-box is being targeted with all kinds of offers to buy draft information, and sports sites are filled with updates and predictions on who will be drafted in the first round. These “experts” all have their opinions.

So let’s travel back to 1998. It’s the draft and the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock with the first pick. Do they pick Peyton Manning or do they pick Ryan Leaf. Well, here is Vic Carucci’s thoughts on who to pick:

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Carucci’s opinion that the Colts should select Leaf is actually laughable now. The reason I post this scouting report is to show that experts can be absolutely wrong. He missed it here.

Recently I watched an ESPN 30 for 30 episode about the 1993 NFL draft. The year that John Elway was drafted first. During that ESPN documentary, we are reminded of their draft expert, Paul Zimmerman, who proudly proclaimed that it was a mistake for the Miami Dolphins to draft Dan Marino. “I don’t understand it”

He went on to say that no one was there to coach him and that it was a mistake for the Dolphins to draft him. They had other needs. That was his draft expert opinion.

I close with the thought that I have seen more expert opinion that should really be more”Opinionater” than expert. In trial, I see defense experts making the proclamation that someone needs no more treatment and has no permanent injury… after only seeing medical records and not even seeing the person.

I had one defense expert tell me under oath that he felt more qualified to give an opinion after not seeing my client, because this made sure that he was not impacted by any bias. Solely basing his opinion on the records. Of course, he smirked when I asked him if he refused to see patients in his office… because meeting them would cause a bias of his treatment. Boom! That is no expert opinion. That is silliness.

And for pic o’ day… I think this qualifies as good expert advice!

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I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again!

Yes… this is what I call a real rule breaker!

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In 1964, Julie Andrews made her movie debut in Mary Poppins. Then, she became internationally famous when she starred in My Fair Lady (1956) and then Camelot (1960).

In 1965, she played the real life Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Her voice singing the words “The hills are alive, with the sound of music” became iconic as a report 283 million people paid to see that movie. It became the biggest hit in the history of 20th Century Fox.

Julie Andrews had become a star because of her acting… but truly because of her voice. Several starring roles followed. But in 1997, she ran into a roadblock.

While starring in a show on broadway, she continued to experience hoarseness in her voice, that made it very difficult to sing. She was examined by a doctor and it was determined that she had developed nodules on her vocal cords. Fortunately, they were non-cancerous and could be surgically removed.

The surgery was scheduled and the nodules were successfully removed. When she woke from the surgery, she no longer had her singing voice and her speaking voice had a noticeable rasping noise. And, it was permanent.

After recovering from the shock of not being able to sing with her infamous four-octave soprano, years later she could finally joked that she found herself with a deep alto, only able to sing songs like “Old Man River“.

Here is the reminder for us. Once she got over the depression of losing her voice and the loss of her career that went with it, she picked herself up. She continued to perform with speaking roles and even became a “voice-over” star for such productions as Dr. Dolittle… starring as the voice of the parrot.

In 2000, she was recognized as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. In 2001, she appeared in The Princess Diaries, which was her first Disney film since Mary Poppins. She even performed voices for three of the Shrek movies and has also appeared in the Despicable Me movies and sequels. And now at age 82, she is known as an author for best-selling books for kids, having written 24 books to date.

All this was done after tragedy supposedly ended her career. And… she reports feeling great satisfaction in being a grandmother to nine, and a great-grandmother to three.

I could write this story many times about clients who have been knocked down, and then get back up. I am personally challenged every day by their courage.

Everyone, at some point in their life, has been knocked down and not felt like getting back up. When you get back up, it makes you realize that there are so many possibilities. Adversity causes some to break… and others to break records. (William Arthur Ward)

And finally, I laughed out loud!

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What Is Your Passion?

What does your eye doctor think of your eye sight, if they send you this kind of appointment reminder?

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Just sayin’!

Several years back, I was attending a seminar on law and legal marketing. One of the first speakers started his speech by saying that he was going to tell us his secrets for Internet marketing, but was not worried about utilizing them and taking away business. He reasoned that  the majority of us would either be too lazy, or too consumed with our work to follow through on what had made him successful.

Honestly, his speech ticked me off a little. I guess he got my competitive nature riled up. As I thought about what he was saying, it made me realize there was a better way of doing things… but like this fellow in this picture, no matter how hard I worked,  I had lots to learn. There was a better way to do things!

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At the time, that lawyer was one of major Internet marketers in the country. He had his website everywhere. Recently, someone mentioned him to me. That made me realize that I had not seen any of his marketing for a while; that his website was not reaching me. What had happened to him? He is still out there, but it made me think.

A book that I am listening to on Audible, in my car, is written by and also read by Gary Vaynerchuk titled Crushing It!  The book  just came at the end of January At the beginning of the audio book, the author acknowledges that he was going to be adding to it, as he read the audio portion. He noted that technology and marketing had already changed so rapidly, since he had written the book.

I think that’s why the earlier mentioned lawyer was not in my stream of consciousness anymore. He probably has not managed to keep up. It really was not about a competitor catching up to him.

At the Firm, we constantly challenge ourselves to be better. Not just be processors. (I think this coffee server might have just been processing. Right?)

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As Gary Vanderchuk says, “there are entrepreneurs and there are ‘wantreprenuers‘”. Follow your thrill and passion and you will find the “fulfill”. The financial reward will follow the passion. If someone simply wants money, they will not be successful. At some point their “Want To” will run out.

Our motivation and passion can be helping people, beating insurance companies, constantly learning, and seeing something different every day. If someone comes to work to simply get on Facebook or ask everyone how their weekend was, then they probably are not following a passion. It’s just a job to them. Ultimately, their “Want To” is going to run out and make them search for something else.

Coach Vince Lombardi knew how to challenge people. Here is one of his quotes that fires me up! “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you are willing to pay the price”.

I am challenged by Martha Washington’s (1732-1802) mantra for life, “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances“.

It’s Our Monday! It’s going to be a great day! I dare an insurance company to deny today!

And finally, for our pic o’ day, I guess this is an example of someone who may enjoy making cakes… but still be processing what someone says to put on their cakes? The definition of literally:

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The Starfish Reminder

I love what Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy!

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The power of human connection!

And this story from livelifehappy.com sums up what keeps me going!

An old man walked across the beach until he came across a young boy throwing something into the breaking waves. Upon closer inspection, the old man could see that the boy was tossing stranded starfish from the sandy beach, back into the ocean.

“What are you doing, young man?” He asked.
“If the starfish are still on the beach when the sun rises, they will die,” the boy answered.
“That is ridiculous. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. It doesn’t matter how many you throw in; you can’t make a difference.”

“It matters to this one,” the boy said as he threw another starfish into the waves. “And it matters to this one.”

Recently I have been interviewing attorneys for our offices. In fact, I have hired 2 attorneys and am close to hiring a few more. Why? Well, this story summarizes it, just like the question that I am regularly asked in my attorney interviews:

When do you plan to retire?

I actually have a physical reaction to that question. The longer I practice law, the more irritated I get with the way that insurance companies treat people. It’s what drives me…puts a chip on my shoulder! It’s why I have no plans to retire and don’t even react well to that question.

What motivates me? Maybe we won’t change how insurance companies treat people. But for our client on this case…it matters to this one!

As that website says, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”.

And for pic o’ day…this one always makes me laugh:

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Happy Too!

I always like to start Our Monday Blog with some positivity. This pic o’ qualifies as reaching goals. Right?

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While driving down the road recently, I saw a billboard advertisement for a grocery store chain that simply said, “Groceries Delivered“. That seems to meet a need, but it also is becoming more popular. Perhaps the aggressiveness of Amazon is causing everyone to step up their game in the grocery business.

I remember being one of the first law firms to advertise “We will come to you“. I had noticed a trend of several new potential clients failing to show up for their appointments at the office. I learned that once someone had crashed their car, it made it very difficult to come to our office. Missing the appointment made total sense. I had to come up with a solution… going to their home on their time.

Which brings me to the thought of how to step up our service now? What message or new service could I advertise.

I love the positivity of my father-in-law. When someone asks him for help, he regularly responds with, “Happy Too“. Be willing and ready to help! If I could convey that in all of our ads… then I have maintained our true hopeful message. If someone needs our help… I hope that they feel our response of “Happy Too”!

 

And finally, for our pic o’ day, I think many of us relate to this as we sit in that chair!

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Close the App Loophole

There are some things worthy of being consumed. Fortunately, the Virginia legislature is still turning its attention to distracted driving. Because drivers do more than text.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog just reminded me that in Virginia, it is still legal for drivers to view apps on their phones like Facebook or Twitter, while they are driving. But the Virginia legislature is paying attention.

Del. Christopher Collins, R-Winchester has introduced House Bill 181 to broaden the existing distracted driving law. It would make it a violation of the law for any use of a cell phone while driving. It would also remove a defense. Currently if a police officer wants to cite you for texting and driving, you could presumably just say that “No, I was just checking my Facebook“.

As Delegate Collins explained,  “This law goes after those individuals who are staring at their phone to the point that it diverts their attention from driving along the road“.

As noted in the blog, Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, has indicated that her organization supports the bill.  She explains, “If the bill doesn’t pass, people are going to continue to die,” She referenced that there had been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the past year in Virginia.

This bill is really about saving lives and changing behavior,” she said. “This is an issue that has to be addressed.

On its face you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”. Here’s the opposing side according to the blog,

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. He said that while he agreed with the bill in theory, he felt it was written ambiguously and could be used as a precedent for bad acting officers to pull over and harass people, particularly people of color.

My heart goes out to every family who has had to deal with a fatality because of a distracted driving accident,” Bourne said. “But equally important and valuable are those drivers who after a pre-textual stop had a fatal encounter with a bad actor who was charged and responsible for keeping our community safe.

He has introduced a different bill to stop distracting driving, that would make it so that police could only pull people with phones…if they are driving recklessly. I guess his reasoning is a “cause and effect bill“.

So there are two sides of the issue. I am glad that no one is trying to introduce No driving with a coffee cup in hand! Just sayin’!

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And for pic o’ day, all I can say is Hahahahahahahaha!

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Positivity Over Negativity. (Plus Barney Fife!)

In the world of strange facts, dolphins sleep with one eye open. That doesn’t seem like good rest! Maybe there are just some things that are not meant to be seen!

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This is really a blog about negativity… and then positivity.

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I read over the weekend that Lindsay Vonn had announced that she would not be attending the White House as a winning Olympic athlete. Then, in her first event, she failed to medal in the downhill Super G and dropped to sixth in the standings. (ESPN)  That’s when an avalanche of negativity hit her online.

Because of her previous political statement, she received tons of hate tweets. (USA Today) Such tweets as “You got what you deserved”, and “One loss down and only two more to go”. 

One USA teammate was sickened by the negativity directed at Vonn. She tweeted,  “It’s gross. I have been mistakenly getting her hate mail for weeks!”

A lot of times when I read a news article online, I find myself scrolling to the bottom of the article to read the comments. Even on tragic stories, you can find some of the meanest comments attached to the article. Sometimes it involves an attempt at bad humor, and other times just a remark about how the person deserved it.

Several years ago, one of my friends lost his mother in a car accident. There was a news article in the local paper that even included a picture of the her car that was in the crash. The story reported how she had been killed on impact. I was so saddened by the story and my friend’s loss. But sure enough, at the bottom of the article there were negative comments that included one that basically said, “She got what she deserved. Old people shouldn’t be driving anyway“.

The Vonn story is a reminder that there are people who think that their disagreement means that there is license to be mean. You can’t change the anger in society. You can only control your own thinking and how you treat others. Just typing that makes me feel like I need to post something right now, just to make me smile.

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I read that Vonn story while drinking coffee on Sunday morning. Then, during the Sunday morning church service, the minister included Psalms 103 in his message, and remarked that he thought that it was the most positive passage in the Bible. (Here)

 

The Psalm includes such verses as  “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” and “Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul“.  Reading it made me feel positive. Being grounded in what is important and not to be influenced by the negativity of others. And then… I felt so positive!

Sure, some days it can feel like this… Right?

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But other days it’s really the positive!

 

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Spaghetti and Positivity

Let’s just keep it going. Valentine’s Day again. Can you feel the love? Not so much? Come on! All right… on with the show. But I hope you can still feel the love!

I am going to tell you one of my weaknesses… it’s spaghetti.

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There are some things that I can avoid eating, but I find myself yielding to the temptation of spaghetti and casting aside all concerns of weight gain. And that’s where I found myself last weekend… on a spaghetti mission!

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And not just any mission. My wife and I were headed to Joe’s Inn for their spaghetti. As we walked in the door, we found several people standing and seated. All waiting for a table. The hostess/waiter walked up to us and asked “how many in your party?”. Then she said “A few tables are about to leave and it should only be a few minutes”.

I noticed that she said the same thing to a few more people that came in, right after us. No one left the restaurant. We waited a bit and no one left. All because we were greeted positively and given “hope”.

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I know I am getting carried away with the spaghetti pictures, but it was a reminder to me about the importance of attitude, even in this restaurant stop.

Years ago, attorney John Morgan in Florida told me that his most important employee at his law firm was his receptionist. What do people think when they call the firm. Just like walking in to a restaurant. The difference between waiting and walking out the door.

Yesterday, I spoke to a lawyer at our firm who told me about a case that he is working on right now. The lady had previously been represented by another local law firm on a prior injury case. Now, she has another injury, but this one is tremendously significant with high medical bills and a multi-million dollar insurance policy. That’s code for… it is a big big case.

Why did she call us? Well, she thought about going back to the firm that represented her on her first case. At the same time, she just happened to see our commercial. Couple that with the fact that she was not exactly thrilled with her last case.

Thankfully, our intake was friendly. Then, she spoke to a lawyer here that was helpful. She decided to hire us. As John Morgan said, you can always find lawyers, but it’s hard to find people who care. And that’s the importance of Team at the firm. It makes me want to say thank you every day, to those who work here at the firm. No different than… a table will be ready shortly. Instead of not caring and just saying, “there will be a 30 minute wait”.

And yes, for pic o’ day, one more pasta mention. Is it wrong to have spaghetti for breakfast? How about if it’s just a side?

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When the Jury Does Not Show Up!

Here we are… it’s Monday! Is this how you felt this morning?

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At the beginning of every jury trial, I always start by thanking each jury member for taking the time to be there. I sometimes wonder if they think that it is just my memorized introduction. They would not think that, if they saw Sunday’s edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The article (here) is titled, “Jury duty no-shows in Chesterfield are causing trial delays – now the no-shows may get fined, too”.

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But here’s what the reporter is saying.  There were 373 summoned Chesterfield residents who initially failed to appear for jury duty in 2017 and January, 2018. Ultimately, 103 showed up to explain to the judge why they failed to report for jury duty. So far, the court has entered dollar judgments against 24 people. Some of those judgments are as high as $200.

I have previously blogged about having a trial continued in Chesapeake, Virginia, because they did not have enough jurors show up for court.  In Chesterfield, the no-shows are a cause of growing concern in Chesterfield. Court personnel reports having to sometimes scramble to find enough people to seat juries. One November jury trial was canceled because of no-shows.

In the article, Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard was quoted as noting that, “It’s a huge problem. It really delays justice.” He also went on to discuss that some Chesterfield’s circuit judges have indicated they may want him to send deputies to pick up prospective jurors from their homes or workplaces, if enough don’t show up for jury duty.

The Henrico Chief Judge has indicated they they are fortunately not having the same issue. “We just have not had a problem,” said Chief Henrico Circuit Judge James Yoffy, “We do have a good system out here.” Petersburg Circuit Court recorded the third-highest number of juror absences in the region — 312.

Just a quick note on the process from our end. We set a court date that is sometimes almost a year away. Then, we make arrangements with witnesses and send out subpoenas. As to doctors who are going to testify, we subpoena them and then sometimes are also required to pay them a NON-REFUNDABLE trial testimony retainer payment.

If it is a very busy doctor in a specialized area of medicine, that retainer could be $5000-$10,000. Getting on their schedules and then paying large retainers to doctors is expected. Then… you truly hope that all scheduling will work and that everyone will show up, so the trial can go forward. Delay is normally good for the defense because it means that the defendant can put off responsibility for the harms, for a little longer.

Unfortunately, if a trial is continued, it’s not just a matter of showing up the next day. Those days are already pre-scheduled.  It’s once again trying to get back on the Court’s docket. It usually means going downstairs to the Clerk’s office and hoping to get back on a little sooner than it originally took to schedule.

But… those non-refundable retainers to the doctors are usually gone. For the next court date, it takes more non-refundable retainers.

That’s why my beginning remarks to jurors are truly from a place of thankfulness! Even though this is how some might be thinking:

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And for pic o’ day…

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Punishment Punishment??

I could write about Ed… with cherries on his head. What? There are just some things that are difficult to explain. For instance, in 2016, Americans spent a reported $5.3 million dollars buying U.S. flags… that were made in China. Things that make you go hmmmm!

This blog is about punishment legislation in Virginia. Legislator thinking is the confusing part. And I will present some thoughts, but I cannot promise that I can explain it. Of course, you have to remember what they say about the value of free… and that includes free blogging.

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So here we go. FIGHT THROUGH IT WITH ME!

The headline says, “SB 895 Punitive damages; raises cap from $350,000 to $500,000“. In Virginia, this legislative session had a Senate bill that was introduced to increase punitive damages from $350K to $600K. Then, it was amended to an increase to $500K instead.

It “sailed” through the Virginia Senate committee by a vote 24-15. The question is, “why would someone vote yes or no for an increase in punitive damages?”. Here’s how the voting of the senators was registered.

YEAS–Barker, Chafin, Chase, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Obenshain, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Stanley, Stuart, Surovell, Vogel, Wexton–24.

NAYS–Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Wagner–15

It it now headed to the Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee vote, before heading to the full floor. But again, why would someone be against punishment damages.

Just a couple of thoughts. The punitive damage amount has not been increased in Virginia in 30 years. Insurance is required to cover the punitive damage verdict, if such is awarded by a jury and there is enough insurance to cover it. Also, there is a very high legal standard to meet, to get punitive damages to a jury. Otherwise, a judge will strike it from the case.

So again… what makes a legislator vote against or for it.

I think that those against the punitive damage increase, view it as an issue that is related to being pro-business. If you vote against it you must be helping Virginia in bringing more new businesses to the Commonwealth. Also, you are keeping insurance rates down, because you are helping to keep verdicts down. Verdicts that insurance would otherwise have to pay. Does that sound like good logic?

I think you probably know where I am leaning, but I will say that I am all for bringing new businesses to Virginia; and I do want insurance rates to be lower. In the coming days, I will have some follow-up on the insurance rate issue. Believe me! I want lower rates!

Now here is what we know. When you are starting a business in Virginia or you are thinking about coming to Virginia to do business, you are not asking anyone, “Do you know how much I will have to pay in punitive damages?”. Why? Because no one believes that they will do such acts that are so egregious, that they will be responsible for punishment damages. No one asks “I wonder what will happen when I drive drunk the next 13 nights“.

Punishment damages also serve to protect Virginia citizens. We do not want companies coming to Virginia and intentionally hurting its citizens with their conduct or their products. Remember, it’s not about doing something that causes injury with a mistake or accident… it’s about causing harms with reckless disregard. The legal term includes “willful and wanton” which basically means a conscious or intentional act. That’s why a legislator should be protecting Virginia citizens.

I look at those legislators who have voted “no” and I think, “why don’t they care about their constituents?“. Do they also want to protect drunk drivers?

Now that probably seems a bit harsh. But, I am guessing they do not even realize why they are voting against an increase, for something that has been in effect for 30 years. These same legislators are probably not telling Dominion Power to roll back rates to 1980.

A business who does such bad intentional acts should not be able to get away with it, by simply being responsible for $350K. That is nothing to many businesses. Otherwise, and they can just factor bad behavior into their budget.

As to the insurance increase; if a policy is on an individual, they only have to cover the amount of coverage that is written. In Virginia, a minimum policy is $25K. If it is a business, then typically there are assets to cover a verdict. In the instance when there is coverage… they have already charged significant premiums to cover these insurance amounts. So there should be no increase.

Have I convinced you either way? Well, let’s just all hope that we do not deal with people or businesses that commit such acts that are even worthy of consideration for a punishment damage verdict. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what the House thinks about this issue and whether the increase will ultimately become law.

On a different note for pic o’ day… this can be explained!

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