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The Changing Priorities of Insurance Companies

Virtually all Illinois birth injury cases on which our firm works is a subset of medical malpractice. The cases usually involve allegations that the medical professionals involved in the delivery of a child did not act reasonably, leading to the harm. Most suits do not actually go to trial. Instead, at various stages of the process they usually involve a settlement between the plaintiff and defendant. However, many local residents are surprised to learn that in most cases while the defendant is technically the hospital or medical provider, the entity with most control are the defendant’s insurers.

As soon as these suits are filed, our Chicago birth injury lawyers are in talks with the insurance company and their representatives to get an understanding of each side’s position on the process. That is why it is important for all those interested in these issues to be familiar with the basics of insurance. For one thing, it is helpful to understand how the purpose and drive of these companies has changed considerably from their origins.

A helpful article on this topic was recently published in The Atlantic. The story argues that current goals and motivations of insurance companies are incredibly skewed from what they used to be-and should be. Of course, the underlying idea of all insurance, truly fleshed out in the early 1700s, was to allow the coming together of various different people in order to protect each of them in case of some sort of accident or other danger struck. It was very much a community, mutual effort.

It would be incredibly hard to argue that is the case today.

That is because in the past there were regular dividends to those who were actually insured and focus was not centered on a small group of executives who made decisions that maximized their own benefit. Obviously the insurance organizations will always have incentives to avoid payouts. However, there is a difference when the fewer payouts mean distributions among all members versus payout to a certain few.

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers were interested to read how in the past, when profits for the company were distributed to members in the form of regular dividends, there was a community benefit to making overall safety improvements-like keeping mortality rates low. In other words, when good health community-wide was prioritized, everyone benefitted financially (as well as medically).

In this way, it was often insurance companies who pioneered all major safety initiatives, such as improving the workplace and enacting basic medical standards to ensure its own community well-being. The industry governed itself, with its own directors being elected from those actually insured. The story nicely summarized the overall purpose of the industry: “Insurance aimed to mitigate risk, both by providing incentives to reduce it and by taking relatively small sums from each participant and aggregating them into large payouts for the unfortunate victims.”

However, over the years these companies have shifted from those clear goals, to mega corporate powerbrokers. This has resulted in the small group of executives in charge of these entities wielding massive power. Sadly, that power has been used to steer rewards to those very same executives. For example, the CEO of Liberty Mutual made over $400 million in personal compensation over the last four years alone.

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