Policy change made to reduce future payouts in lawsuits
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors today approved new risk management controls aimed at driving down legal fees. The move will reduce the county’s future exposure to lawsuits, increase accountability and improve transparency to residents.
Last May, the Risk Management Steering Committee was created to manage the county’s risk by evaluating lawsuits and making corrective action recommendations for departments. Since the formation of this committee, the average cost per claim has declined by more than 15 percent in fiscal year 2017/18.
Following today’s Board action, the steering committee will take on greater responsibility through the implementation of corrective action controls with county departments. With these new controls, accountability will rise and legal costs will continue to fall.
“All county departments have a role to play in the safety and security of our employees and community members,” said County Executive Officer George Johnson. “These new risk management controls will reduce the county’s legal costs and create a safer environment in which we conduct county business.”
Once a claim is determined to require mitigation, a root cause analysis will be conducted, and corrective action will be shared with the department to prevent similar lawsuits. Corrective actions often include training, policy changes, or new equipment. Costs associated with the claim will now only be paid from an appropriate insurance fund once corrective actions have been taken. Without corrective actions, claim costs will impact the department’s operating budget.
To increase transparency in the costs associated with lawsuit settlements and judgments, the county will produce a risk management annual report. The first of which will be presented by the end of September.
Information comparing the County of Riverside’s legal costs to other counties has been publicly shared from other sources. Inaccuracies presented in these comparisons painted a flawed picture of the county’s legal costs as drastically greater than neighboring counties.
The following graph from the county’s insurance carrier shows that all government agencies in California are experiencing significant increases in general liability costs.
In addition, the County of Riverside receives an average of 1,100 new claims annually – 85 percent of which are resolved without any payout. During the past five years, the county prevailed in 17 dismissed lawsuits – all without payment and saving millions of dollars in settlement costs. The actions taken today will expand on these efforts and push down the costs associated with lawsuits.