Alabama legal funding

Op Ed from Our Executive Director: Judge Alabama Legislation on Results, Not Intent

Steve Jobs used to say there are downsides to everything; unintended consequences to everything. But, in public policy, unintended consequences can be minimized by looking at its potential results—not solely at its intentions. Too often, well-meaning legislation ends up crushing those it was supposed to help. You’ve seen it a thousand times before. And now, it could happen again—to the detriment of everyday people in this state.

State Rep. Chris Pringle is sponsoring HB 395 which aims to enact consumer protections. But, it would have the opposite effect—inflicting massive harm on consumers and consumer choice. Its industry-destroying price controls would force legal funding providers from the state, leaving everyday people in the lurch.

Here’s some background: You probably know someone who’s been given the run-around by an insurance carrier after an accident. For people who’ve been in an accident and are pursuing a legitimate legal claim, consumer legal funding can be an alternative to taking an unfair, lowball settlement offer from an insurance company just because day to day expenses can’t be met.

Legal funding can help pay for rent, utilities, or a car payment—giving people time to settle fairly. With 76% of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, a lot of us couldn’t make the bills for months on end, and fight for what’s fair, on our own.

Janet from Mobile needed the option when an insurance company dragged out her claim. “Without access to consumer legal funding, I would have to choose to pay my bills or continue healing… It helped me get my life back,” she said. Will from Huntsville needed it, too. “My lights would have been cut off and I wouldn’t have been able to afford my medicine… When I needed help, legal funding provided it.”

Rep. Pringle’s legislation would unintentionally eliminate people’s ability to access this lifeline by eliminating legal funding providers’ ability to operate. This is not consumer protection. This would hurt everyday working people like Janet and Will.

People need more choices, not less. Eliminating the option doesn’t eliminate the need.

As a former state lawmaker, I know how hard it can be to find ways to protect consumers, implement sensible regulations, and support free market principles at the same time. But, when it comes to legal funding, we did it in Oklahoma.

We brought comprehensive regulation to an industry that had operated without regulation for years by making sure proper consumer protections were put in place, that consumers were empowered to make informed financial decisions, and that bad actors couldn’t operate.

And, it worked. People now have access to a highly competitive market where people can find affordable legal funding if they need it.

Good public policy focuses on outcomes and minimizes unintended consequences. Real consumer protection and maintaining options—Rep. Pringle, these are the results you want.

Rob Johnson is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC). He is a former Republican member of the Oklahoma State Legislature who served in the Oklahoma State Senate and Oklahoma House of Representatives.