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Industry Lies Volume I: Personal Injury Lawsuits: Are They Out-of-Control or Just Out-of-Favor?
This blog is the first installment in the “Industry Lies” series intended to dispel the myths of tort law.
Think about a personal injury lawsuit and what comes to mind? Probably not a very pretty picture. More than likely your minds-eye takes you to a stereotyped greedy opportunist who saw dollar signs when they slipped and fell at the local market, conveniently owned by a profitable mega-chain.
But is this stereotype really accurate? And, if not, then how has the so-called frivolous personal injury lawsuit become such a negative emblem of plaintiffs’ attorneys?
First of all, let’s look at the basics. It’s a common assumption that the number of personal injury lawsuits has risen each year. But the facts tell a different story. In fact, the number of personal injury lawsuits (also referred to as torts but we’ll explain that later) has declined for years. The National Center for State Courts reported that tort cases accounted for only 4.4 percent of all civil cases in 2008, a number representing a 25 percent decrease in the number of these type of cases since 1999 and a six percent decrease since 2007.
The same goes for federal tort cases. The Justice Department reported that the number of federal court cases tried between 1985 and 2003 dropped by 79 percent. A whopping 3,600 tort cases were heard in federal court in 1985. But that number decreased to less than 800 by 2003.
Yet while the actual number of personal injury cases has decreased, the perception that they are out-of-control and need to be reigned in has magnified. Furthermore, it’s not just perception; it’s also action. Each year, new tort reform bills are introduced in various state legislatures in an effort to limit the ability of individuals to obtain compensation from companies that caused them harm, loss, or even death.
The truth is that the high-powered companies that are generally behind the harm (think asbestos, toxins in water, etc.) have the power to influence public opinion and the legislative process, ultimately protecting themselves at the expense of individuals who only have the civil justice system on which to rely.
The companies are able to affect change because their powerful lobbyists, hired by the likes of the oil, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, convince the public to vote for tort reform because it is “in their best interests” to do so. These lobbyists want you to believe that a growing number of cases will make the costs of insurance or medical bills skyrocket and that they are a threat to your well-being. They want you to believe this propaganda, but it’s far from the truth.
The last thing we should grant these companies and their executives is a way to evade responsibility for negligent practices. The people who actually do need protection are the people who have been harmed — the ones who don’t have high-powered lobbyists; the ones who have suffered significant damage to their health, their finances, their well-being.
At the national plaintiff’s law firm of Baron and Budd, we take pride in protecting people’s interests when corporations attempt to minimize their responsibility while maximizing their profits. For over 35 years, we have been fighting companies that have acted negligently and we are proud to continue our practice today. The attorneys at Baron and Budd are committed to delivering the truth about personal injury lawsuits.
For more information on Baron and Budd, visit here.