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LABI-backed coalition urges state bar to crack down on attorney advertising


May 3, 2019
By Caitie Burkes
Originally Posted on Greater Baton Rouge Business Report

Aiming to remedy what it calls a statewide “automobile insurance rate epidemic,” the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry has joined a coalition of roughly 30 companies and business groups in urging the Louisiana State Bar Association to crack down on the state Supreme Court’s existing rules related to attorney advertising.

Lawyer advertisements—which must be approved by the LSBA Ethics Counsel—have contributed to a growing number of “frivolous lawsuits” that ultimately drive up the cost of auto and commercial insurance, writes LABI President and CEO Stephen Waguespack in a May 1 letter to LSBA Executive Director Loretta Larsen. 

Louisiana claimants report bodily injury at double the national rate, Waguespack writes, leading auto insurance companies to increase rates well above rates in similar markets where attorney advertising hasn’t become a staple of the landscape.

“Louisiana cannot afford to allow the overwhelming persuasion of attorney advertising to continue wreaking havoc on the affordability of legally required automobile insurance,” Waguespack writes, citing an Insurance Research Council statistic showing Louisiana claimants as 60% more likely to file lawsuits than claimants in the rest of the nation.

The state’s auto insurance market is on the verge of a “crisis,” Waguespack continues, with some insurance companies restricting underwriting while others have stopped writing policies in the state altogether.

In the letter, Waguespack urges Larsen to “consider more stringent enforcement” of the rules by preventing the propagation of “offensive and misleading attorney advertising littering Louisiana’s roadsides and infiltrating the televisions in our homes.”

Other members of the LABI-backed coalition include the American Sugar Cane League, the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the Louisiana Chemical Association, among others.

Attorney advertising has been a hot topic this legislative session, with two bills sponsored by state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, addressing both billboard advertising and auto insurance. However, LABI’s Marie Centanni says the letter is unrelated to either piece of legislation.

Read the full letter here. Also, check out a recent Business Report feature exploring the business of billboards in Baton Rouge.