In my previous post on this topic – “tort reform” – I explained how and where the misinformation campaign of tort reform was developed: the liability insurance industry. I also explained that this campaign has been so successful, that a national bar association that has existed for over 60 years, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA,) apparently felt that the public perception of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers had been so damaged by this misinformation campaign, and public opinion of trial lawyers had sunk so low as a result, that it actually decided to change its name to the “American Association for Justice” (AAJ.) If you click on the link for AAJ, you will notice that the Home Page lists the AAJ as “Formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA,) due to the insistence of many trial lawyers who are proud of ATLA’s name.
The campaign for tort reform has taken a thousand stories of the civil jury system, and twisted them like a pretzel to portray a civil liability system that is “out of control”, awarding “outrageous jury verdicts” to “questionable plaintiffs”. All of this, of course, reflects the main objective of the insurance industry’s campaign, which is to frighten people into believing that their liability insurance premiums – whether for automobile insurance, homeowners’ insurance, medical malpractice coverage, municipal liability, corporate liability or any kind of liability insurance offered in this country – are high because of a “lawsuit crisis”, caused by “greedy tort lawyers.” Why does the liability insurance industry want to do this? Why are they spending tens of millions of policyholders’ dollars to create public pressure to pass tort reform legislation wherever they can?
A simple one-word answer, and I know you’ve all heard it before: Money. You see, (here’s a link to a good book explaining this,) “tort reform” basically dismantles the civil jury system – the system that decides whether a person or company is liable for someone else’s injuries, and if so how much should be paid to compensate the victim of those injuries. What this “reform” does, is take away your legal rights to sue a defendant in court for your injuries, such as a car accident, a dog bite, or a slip and fall injury. And if “reform” passes? If you’re still lucky enough to be able to file a suit against someone who has injured you, the damages that you would have received earlier (before “reform”) would be capped, or limited to a maximum amount. And if that amount is not enough to compensate you for perhaps lifelong injuries you might have suffered, such as in a medical malpractice case or nursing home neglect or abuse case? Tough. You’d be out of legal options, out of luck, and out of money.
Now you see why the insurance industry is behind “tort reform”: These drastic changes to our 200-plus year-old civil jury system quietly take away your legal recovery rights, limit what insurance companies have to pay for the negligence of their customers, and pad the industry’s profits even more than they are now. Remember: The insurance companies who are behind this campaign are the same types of companies like AIG, which was responsible for a major part of the economic collapse of 2008, and who have taken billions of dollars in bailouts at taxpayers’ expense. Now they want to go further, and take away Americans’ legal recovery rights in court.
To convince voters and legislators of the “need” to pass tort reform legislation at the federal and state level, a million half-truths and outright lies have been rolled out in the process. But the all-time “Granddaddy”, the all-time winner in this distorted media campaign, has to be “The McDonald’s Lawsuit.” I’ll bet you’ve all heard it: About how a woman who spilled hot coffee on her lap, was awarded “millions of dollars” by a “runaway jury”. This story is ‘Exhibit A’ in the insurance industry’s excuse about why they’ve had to gouge their policyholders with sky-high premiums (which supposedly causes businesses to shut down, which supposedly causes all kinds of subsidiary problems.) And who do the insurers say is to blame? Trial lawyers, who have created a “Lawsuit Crisis”.
As a Boston personal injury attorney, I can assure you this story is completely false. What makes it false: The same thing that usually makes a truth a lie: Omitting critical information which tells the real truth. So now that you’ve heard their story, prepare yourself for the real story – in my next and last post on this topic.