27 May 2006

Law is insane

It took me a while to realise this, but after a walk through road-insurance laws yesterday it kind of clarified.

The lawyers concerned with our end are very much along Jeremy Malcolm’s high-tide mark: clear, simple, determined and as honest as they could be within the existing law.

Now... what do I mean by that cute little turn of phrase?

On the surface, the answer is quite simple: the laws we are dealing with are kind of bonkers.

Scratch the surface in most parts, and it all goes wonky.

I’ve heard people complaining about this or that odd chunk of law — for a clear, modern example, I know of one African country that has a death penalty for the second drink-driving offence.

Why? Because drink-drivers were accidentally-ish killing many victims, and the lawmakers wanted the situation to be a little fairer: they wanted the offender to be the one to suffer, if anyone.

So... on the first offence, the policemen writes your name in a logbook, then carefully drives you home — on the second offence, your name is found in the log-book and witnessed by another official, then you’re walked out of the station’s back door and shot. No more warnings, no third-offenders.

Fair? Wellll... I seem to remember them shooting about one eighth of their usual drink-driving death-toll in the first year of law (and less after that), so they saved nearly 90% of their drink-driving related fatalities, and converted practically all of those deaths into those of the actual offenders. I sometimes wonder how well an outright cause-and-effect approach like that would work here in Australia.

There are many other laws kicking about which are not so apparently straightforward — odd stuff like throwing certain kinds of women down wells at odd astrological times, laws which I can’t see much logic in and which I heartily disapprove of...

However, there are other big classes of “mystical” laws in place which make hard-cornered sense when viewed in context. This is not just any random mystical law: for example, some of the rules for dealing with random godlets across Asia are heavily eyebrow-raising and not very practical, but they do suddenly help rules like much Islamic law or “Anyone who attacks his father or his mother shall be surely put to death.” from the Biblical book of Leviticus seem very reasonable — almost boring — in comparison.

Now... the insurance and compensation law and practice we dealt with Friday afternoon was kind of... random. Some obvious areas of compensation are simply not covered, and other odd ones get practically buried in recompense.

There are also odd gotchas like: large chunks of compensation disappear with the death of an injured one, so the suddenly-bereaved family loses most of their compensation (help) just when their family has no income, no guidance, has its remaining assets locked up in accounts and arrangements only accessible to the recently-deceased, and so on. Including, of course, much compensation that would be useful for, say, one funereal and for putting many of the loose and expensive ends right afterwards.

But wait! There’s more! Rather than word you to weariness here and now, I’ll tell you more about “arrangements” and the order of settling things up later.

Now the esoteric and bizarre knowledge of an expert lawyer really springs to life: by avoiding the obvious traps for you, two important things happen: you actually do get compensated, and so in their own way does said lawyer.

Some of the odd things that lawyers need to do and say to make it all come out basically equitable and reasonable are brain-snappingly complex and fiddly. Mr Jeremy Malcolm, I do not envy you the task of dealing with them! (-:

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