Alternatives of Liability Insurance?

It seems like if you can buy medical malpractice insurance that you should just as well be able to buy embezzlement insurance, murder insurance, vandalism insurance, etc. where you’re not insuring against someone doing something bad to you, but rather where you’re buying yourself out in case you did something bad to someone else.

“I’ve got a 1 in 10,000 chance of murdering someone. So I’ll spend 1/10,000ths of every year in lockup, and then if I do murder someone I won’t have to go to jail! Woohoo!”

That doesn’t seem to fly.

Now obviously it’s silly that a doctor should lose his practice because a nurse accidentally dropped a medical pin inside you and didn’t notice before sowing you up, or to lose your company because someone spilled a hot drink on their lap. But still it seems rather odd to put this tax on businesses and hospitals and doctors, just to protect them from an idiot majority with Robin Hood sentiments, at the same time as protecting the wrong-doers from having to pay the full consequences.

But so is there an alternative? Would simply getting rid of liability insurance* end up self-correcting? I.e. the courts would realize that for the world to continue, stupid cases need to be thrown out, and rational punishments meted?

  • Since any automobile accident has just as much potential to be dangerous to the person who caused it, it can be fairly well assumed that it truly was an “accident”, making the whole issue liability perhaps moot. So in cases like that, I can see the point of “liability” insurance.

You’re conflating criminal law with civil law, intentional acts with negligent acts, and the voluntary act of purchasing insurance with the mandatory act of paying taxes. It’s therefore no surprise that none of it makes sense to you. Many insurance policies, including automobile liability insurance, address the risk of negligence; most insurance policies specifically exclude deliberate acts from their coverage.

People make mistakes. When those people are doctors, their mistakes cause damage, which must be compensated. Doctors, as well as the rest of society, benefit from spreading the risk via insurance. Wrongdoing, as opposed to the usual level of error, is addressed by other means – bad doctors lose their privileges, lose their insurance, lose their licenses, and sometimes lose their freedom.

And, incidentally, stupid cases DO get thrown out. Ridiculous awards for good cases also get thrown out. You don’t hear much about it, but it’s so.

Insurance isn’t designed to protect businesses and hospitals and doctors from an “idiot majority”, but to protect patients and customers from businesses, hospitals and doctors and to ensure that those doctors, hospitals and businesses can make good on their mistakes. A nurse dropping a pin inside someone and, along with the surgeon and any other medical personnel at the scene, not noticing is a pretty major mistake and can easily kill someone. A requirement of insurance to cover something like this is hardly a “tax.” It protects you.

The infamous “hot coffee” case, by the way, was Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, and McDonald’s hardly lost their company. A review of the facts of that case might be instructive.