Limited Liability for Worthy Causes - a solution to excessive insurance costs and damages

Our economy could not function without Limited Liability for business companies

Soon our society will not be able to function unless we have Limited Liability for the essential professions like medicine and engiineering, and for charitable, voluntary and worthy public organisations.

1. The problems

Great increases in litigation and great increases in legal costs and payouts are causing massive rises in insurance premiums which are stopping events run by charities, communities and organisations with volunteers, and closing down businesses which provide pleasures in life such as pony-riding, tours, and entertainments. These increasingly unbearable insurance costs are closing down so much that is for the public good and quality of life, from agricultural shows and children's educational excursions, to sausage sizzles and adventure games. The increasing litigation for huge damages is costing innocent taxpayers and donors too much.

Much of the payment of insurance premiums is taken up by the insurance companies themselves, and much of the damages and costs in liability litigation is taken up by the lawyers. In one recent British case, it was estimated that lawyers absorbed 70% of the sum awarded, which was hundreds of thousands of pounds, paid ultimately by taxpayers.

2. 'Limited liability' legislation

could provide for speedy official investigations and prosecutions on all charges of negligence, but essential professsions, organisations and events could register to limit their liability to speedy payment of bills for medical treatment and necessary equipment as they occur.
Damages would not be paid for long term maintenance, which should be available from social welfare regardless of cause of disablement, or for psychological trauma, which surely cannot be cured by money. Everyone participating in or benefiting from health care, registered events etc. must know and accept this limited liability, set out on any tickets, notices etc., which would have legal validity as they do not at present.

Without such 'limited liability', too much of our community life is liable to collapse.

The 'Limited Liability' provisions would mean that an event's or organization's insurance could fix up up small cases, without legal intervention within a week or so; while for more serious injury a short court hearing might be required. NO payments for psychotherapy or psychological trauma. Social Welfare would be the source of future assistance if jobs or prospects etc were damaged. by the accident.

Any serious operator negligence or fault would be for public prosecution and fines, not for civil prosecution and damages.

3. How 'Limited Liability' could work

i. A charity or community event could apply for 'Limited Liability' insurance' at a small premium chosen according to size and nature of the event. It would be better for this to be government-run insurance, not a commercial business that requires profit to be factored in, for many reasons. Payouts just for medical bills would average out sustainably, to be no burden on the taxpayer.

ii. The event would include 'Limited Liability' in its publicity, tickets and entrance notices. Everyone attending would be assumed to accept the conditions of Limited Liability (just as everyone is expected to know the parking regulations.)

4. Outcomes

Good for all, including less psychological pressure on people no longer suing. The principles could also be extended to insurance for the medical and teaching professions, to great public benefit, as consequences of litigation risk harm their good work.

i. Organizations could afford the small premiums.

ii. People would have little incentive to sue, and so will be saved the immense psychological pressures involved in litigation.

iii. Organizations would still bear responsibility not to be negligent in the events that they run.

iv. Organizations would not be bankrupted by having to pay out enormous damages - which can cripple charities, churches, and other organizations set up to help others.

v. Organisations freed of the fear of bankruptcy through paying out enormous damages would be less tempted to cover-up anything that happened, as is happening even now.

vi. A legal industry which at present wastes valuable and scarce brainpower in running such litigation could turn to more socially worth-while activities - including perhaps to suing adults who mentally abuse children by sustained verbal maltreatment between the ages of 0-5. (How much damages for "I nearly aborted you and I wish I had" ? This is surely one of the most destructive things to say to a small child, and is far more likely to produce a suicidal and depressed personality than sexual meddling which does not include genital interference. However, here I speak personally as a former clinical child psychologist.)

5. Resources for psychological trauma

It is also desirable to have more 'preventive' education in the community, so that people grow up with more personal resources to cope with psychological trauma and shocking events - which we must all suffer at some time as part of being human, and for which the help of each other is of more value than monetary compensation.

The community, friends and relatives can make the best resources for those in trouble and deep unhappiness - we need to be prepared to help each other.

Schools and playgrounds

It is sad that children today cannot have the joys and freedom that I and my generation had, even at some slight risk of falling off a merrygoround or seesaw or out of a tree in the playground. Why should a fascinating old steamroller that's been there for years and years be removed from our local playground in case some nipper falls off it?

It is also sad that many schools are running scared of having excursions, including for handicapped children who most need the experiences.

Since children cannot be expected to understand Limited Liability, I suppose we cannot return to our more exciting (and less expensive) equipment in our park playgrounds .

However, Limited Liability could be obtained by schools for excursions and other events. Parents would be accepting the Limited Liability clause if they allowed their children to attend events.. They may sign an acknowledgment either at the commencement of a year/term or for each event. Culpable negligence would be a matter for administrative investigation and could be followed up by the public prosecutor, not a civil law case.

Medical insurance

is becoming a public hazard. Doctors are opting out of riskier specialties and operations, country doctors are abandoning obstetrics, all doctors are going overboard in ordering tests for everything, upping medical costs excessively. This is a growing burden on medical staff, taxpayers and the public weal.

The public must accept that in all human affairs there is a certain degree of incompetence that is not culpable negligence, and pity help all of us if we were copped for every gap in our concentration that caused injury to others. In the case of medical accidents, there can be far too much of 'Who Knows?', and if everyone sued for a misdiagnosis, probably no human doctor would escape suing.

In some cases, the negligence is quite apparent and should not require more than two months to make clear. Negligent doctors and hopsitals will be likely to have a run of unnecessarily unfortunate outcomes. Persons considering their case resulted from negligence would register it with an independent authority, for the sake of the public good, to prevent further such cases. Any buildup of accusations would require even more careful investigation. Punishments, fines and deregistrations would be a matter for the public purse and to pay costs, rather than for the complainant. The complainants' satisfaction would be in seeing justice done and future cases prevented, rather than a swag of money.

Payments for ongoing disability would be paid ongoing, not in lump sums.

The provision of suitable housing and equipment for the disabled should be a matter of public provision, for all the disabled, not just for those who can pin the cause of their disability on a human being.