Everyone’s favorite movie star/governor, the aptly titled “Governator”, has become the “Tort Reforminator” this week. According to an article on Law.com, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law this week that prevents a victim of negligence from suing someone who stops to help them at the scene of an accident, unless the tortfeasor’s actions at the scene rise to the level of gross negligence or recklessness. The bill was pushed by the Civil Justice Association of California, a tort reform group whose members include Allstate, AIG, and State Farm (obviously a group that looks out for everyday people).
A member of one of the groups sponsoring the bill, Christine Spagnoli was quoted as saying: “The bar has been set higher… People who do something and unintentionally cause additional harm aren’t going to be faced with having to be potentially sued.” Christine then gives the following example to illustrate how the new bill works: if a drunk driver stops at an accident scene, puts a victim in his car and wrecks it, his actions could rise to gross negligence – he could be sued. If a sober driver rescues someone from an accident scene and crashes into someone while racing to the hospital, they might not be liable under this new law.
The bill provides protection to insurance companies. If the sober driver in scenario number two is driving like a maniac and hurts someone, the fact that he just rescued someone at another accident scene should not shield his insurance company from paying for his negligence. This bill does not protect good samaritans, it protects the good samaritan’s insurance company and prevents the injured party from recovering from the insurance company to pay for their medical expenses. Good job protecting “helpless” insurance companies like AIG, Herr Governator!