Olympia – September 27, 2001 The Risk Management Task Force established by Attorney General Christine Gregoire and Governor Gary Locke has announced its recommendations for protecting the public and reducing the number of multi-million dollar lawsuits against the state.
The Task Force focused on ways to prevent the kinds of accidents or injuries that often lead to lawsuits "in an attempt to avoid human loss and suffering in the first place," according to the report released today.
"Our first goal is to prevent harm to anyone. In accomplishing this, we also protect the state from litigation," said Governor Locke.
"The bottom line is that a lawsuit can represent a failure to protect and serve our citizens," Gregoire said.
The Task Force recommendations include:
- Risk management efforts should be consolidated under the State Office of Financial Management, raising it to a policy-level position and increasing its visibility.
- The state should provide risk management analysis of all bills proposed to the Legislature, providing lawmakers with information on the potential liabilities of proposed legislation.
- An executive-level fast response team with experience in critical incident management should be formed and called on to assist agency directors as needed.
- Agencies involved in serious incidents or losses should visit victims and family members to express regret and assist them in dealing with problems.
- Too often, agencies are reticent to closely examine their mistakes out of fear that the information gathered will be used against the agency in court, according to the report. To allow for a frank examination of what went wrong when an accident or other critical incident occurs, the information from such discussions and investigations should remain public but should have limited use in lawsuits against the state.
- Each agency's risk management budget and claims generated should be studied and discussed during the annual budget process. Currently, the budgetary focus is simply on insurance premiums paid. Requiring detailed explanation of actual losses would focus attention on the issues and increase accountability.
- State agencies with significant history of liability claims or high potential for such claims should provide focused training to staff members on how to prevent the injuries or damage that resulted in lawsuits.
- Background checks should be required of anyone contracted to care for vulnerable citizens.