The ground we’ve gained

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September 10, 2015
kevin gilbride
Snow and Ice Management

In late July, I joined 30 of your peers for an annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., to educate your elected officials on the issues facing the professional snow and ice management industry. Specifically, we focused on frivolous lawsuits and their impact on your business and insurance rates.

The ASCA has long supported the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which is again moving through the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would make it mandatory for federal judges to impose sanctions on plaintiffs and their attorneys who are found to have filed frivolous lawsuits. In addition, those sanctions would likely include paying the defense attorney’s fees.

If this bill passes, you most likely would see a reduction in claims, specifically slip-and-fall claims in our industry. Currently, only 15 percent of slip-and-fall claims ever reach a court room. Insurance companies settle most of these behind the scenes.

For the professional snow and ice management industry, the average payout is roughly $15,000. When there are 30,000 claims annually, that adds up to nearly a $500,000,000 in settlements. This is the reason you are seeing insurance rates go through the roof.

So, what did we accomplish in Washington, D.C.?

We educated your representatives about what is going on in our world. As your representatives develop their positions on various subjects or bills, they do so by gathering information. They want to know what the people who elected them into office think about each one of the bills they consider.

While we sit at home and watch our government at work, I know we often feel that it is dysfunctional. Having been there numerous times, I can report that some of your suspicions are not far off.

However, it is also true that your voices matter. Unless we are there telling our representatives what is happening in our world, they will not fully appreciate the business hurdles you must leap.

They need to realize that a frivolous slip-and-fall claim results in more than a large insurance company cutting a check. They need to understand the far-reaching ramifications those baseless claims have on each facet of our industry and the overall economy.

This year we had four teams that worked through the Senate buildings and conducted nearly 50 meetings. We shared our industry’s issues and perspective on legislation, and how the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act would help you. Most off the time, the folks we met with recognized and sympathized with your pain. They understood how this bill would help. Since this bill impacts more than just our industry, there were some who said they needed to evaluate the deeper impact.

That being said, they completely understood where we were coming from and at least would consider the bill when it comes to vote.

Our day on the Hill accomplished the goal of educating our senators on this bill. Now comes the hard part. We must remain united as an industry during the follow-up process, which is vital in maintaining the momentum we’ve generated.

The ASCA is the conduit for you to get involved and provide the support your industry needs to generate real positive change. Your membership and participation are the next steps toward creating a more viable marketplace for our industry. Please contact me directly at kgilbride@gie.net to discuss the role you can take in this ongoing process.


 

The author is executive director of the ASCA.