This broadcast of Legally Speaking addresses the issue of tort reform and it’s impact on our civil justice system. Tort reform is changes to our civil just system that reduce rights in any lawsuit for personal injury such as auto accidents, medical malpractice, and products liability cases. Tort reform places procedural obstacles in the way of your rights to sue for personal injury, shortening the time within which you can file a claim (statute of limitations), and caps on the amount of damages you can receive for injuries or death.
Why Tort Reform is Wrong for Our Civil Justice System
Tort law serves two important and legitimate purposes. First, tort law compensates victims for the harm caused by another person. In other words, it places the cost of the harm where it should be, on the harm-doer. Second, the threat of liability serves to deter future accidents. Here is a simple example. Suppose your next-door neighbor cuts down a tree on his or her property that falls onto yours and crushes your car. Who should be responsible for paying for the damage – you are your neighbor? My guess is that you would want the neighbor to pay. If your neighbor refused, you sued, and your neighbor was ordered to pay, my guess is your neighbor would be deterred from cutting down another tree.
Don’t Believe the Hype Behind Tort Reform
Although some people believe there are too many personal injury lawsuits in the US, the fact is that over 2/3rd’s of all lawsuits are businesses suing other businesses and people such as foreclosure actions, claims for debt, and businesses suing each other over patents, unfair trade practices, and the list goes on. However, using rhetoric and fear-based marketing, businesses and insurance companies are convincing the public that there will be a shortage of medical providers and outrageous costs for goods and services if access to our civil justice system doesn’t have more obstacles in the way.
The real purpose of tort reform is to shield businesses (and insurers) from compensating for the harm they cause to others. Many corporations typically in a “cost-benefit analysis” before considering whether to stop harming others. In other words, these companies decide whether the cost of changing a harmful practice (polluting our environment, dangerous design flaws, harmful pharmaceutical side-effects, etc.), would be greater than the cost of continuing it (lawsuits and damages). There are many examples where corporations only chose to stop their wrongful conduct AFTER they were sued by plaintiffs such as makers of children’s pajamas to used cheap, flammable materials, drugs such as thalidomide that caused deformities in unborn children, lead-based paint producers, manufacturers of cancer-causing asbestos insulation, vehicles with dangerous, exploding gas tanks and gas lines, and poorly manufactured car tires that shredded on our highways and caused vehicles to roll over. But, through tort reform, corporations, manufacturers, and insurance companies are making it increasingly difficult to bring these claims. In the end, limitations on damages and other restrictions on plaintiff’s rights reduce corporate accountability.
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Personal Injury Attorneys in Charleston
If you need a personal injury lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina, contact Futeral & Nelson for a free consultation.