We've written periodically about our attorneys' involvement with the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ). No organization has done more to protect access to the courts, and the rights of accident victims and insureds in our state. We are truly proud to be members of and contributors to this vital group.
Some legislators are predisposed to being receptive to civil justice causes and need little encouragement to stand up for the rights of injured people and insureds. Some others, not so much.”
Part of the work of WSAJ includes participation in the annual “Lobby Day” at the state capitol. Teams of WSAJ member attorneys pay visits to state senators and representatives from their legislative districts. The visits usually last five to twenty minutes, and can be held in the legislator's office at the Capitol, in the hallway outside a committee meeting, or near the entrance to the House or Senate floor – wherever we can meet them when they have a few spare minutes.
The goal of our meetings with state legislators is simple: our elected representatives are busy conducting the business of the state, and we need to direct their attention to proposed laws that either help or hurt the civil justice system, let them know we're paying attention to how they vote on those issues, and respectfully encourage them to champion laws that protect the rights of injured accident victims- the types of clients we represent.
Some legislators are predisposed to being receptive to civil justice causes and need little encouragement to stand up for the rights of injured people and insureds. Some others, not so much. In either case, WSAJ members make a quick and respectful presentation. Often, with all the bills they consider in any given session, legislators don't know much, if anything, about the bills we've come to discuss. The education WSAJ provides them often helps shape their views and provides them with the information they need to discuss bills with their colleagues and decide how they'd vote.
Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards has long had a strong presence at the annual Lobby Day event. Craig Schauermann has been going for years. Scott Staples and Scott Edwards have attended for the last three years, and will continue in future years to lend their time to this vital cause.
This year there were a number of proposed bills WSAJ focused on, but of primary importance is House Bill 1248. If passed, the law would expand the existing Superior Court Mandatory Arbitration system (MAR) limits from $50,000 to $100,000. MAR is a cheaper, quicker, and less stressful way to try and resolve certain civil cases (including the types we handle) that would otherwise be heading to trial once they are filed. Our clients have benefitted greatly from this system over the years, and we think it's very effective. Cases can only go into the MAR process if the Plaintiff agrees that $50,000 is the most they could be awarded. This obviously doesn't work for all cases, but does for a significant number. The universe of cases that could be put into this system if HB 1248 becomes law would expand greatly, to include cases that likely justify an award of more than $50,000, but less than $100,000. Again, in our experience this would be a great thing for our clients and the civil justice system as a whole- by helping resolve more cases outside of the courtroom it would free up a significant amount of judicial time, and save the court system and the counties a significant amount of money.
We are happy to report that HB 1248 was recently passed in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 78-19, and will now move on to the Senate Law and Justice Committee for a hearing. We will keep our readers posted on its progress.