Tort Lawsuits Declining in the USA

Posted in Tort Reform at 10:15 am by kevin

There is this notion that Americans are the most litigious people in the world. However, a recent report by the Wall Street Journal is about to prove that that is not the case…anymore. In 2015, only two out of 1,000 people who are alleged victims of different kinds of civil wrongs, including faulty products or medical malpractice, have filed tort lawsuits in 2015. That figure is way below 1993 levels when 10 in 1,000 Americans sued for damages.

The WSJ report analyzed data from the National Center for State Courts, and the numbers are clear: Americans are filing fewer cases, but what is behind this dramatic dive?

What is a Tort?

A tort is a wrongful act, one that causes harm or injury to another and cause courts to impose liability.

Tort law aims to give the injured party relief for harm caused by others. It also seeks hold the responsible party accountable for the offense they committed and hopes to prevent others from committing acts that could prove harmful.

The afflicted party (plaintiff) usually seeks damages in the form of monetary compensation. Other remedies are also available including injunction and restitution.

There are three general categories that torts fall into:

Reasons for the Decline of Tort Lawsuits

It’s difficult to pinpoint the decline in the litigation industry down to just one factor. There are so many contributing causes for the drop in tort lawsuits, but here are some of the major reasons:

  • Cost

In most cases, personal injury attorneys don’t require clients to pay an upfront fee. Attorneys get paid a percentage of the money the client receives from the settlement or trial verdict. This is called a contingency fee agreement.

The fee an attorney receives depends on the cap set by the state. For example, lawyers in Michigan cannot get more than one-third of the total amount received by the client.

However, those are not the only costs a claimant will have to pay; there are ancillary fees involved as well including fees for the following: court filings, police reports, medical records (obtaining and preparing), expert witnesses, and copies of deposition transcripts.

It is possible that a lot of Americans find the costs associated with filing lawsuits too much.

  • Tort Reform

For years, a number of tort reforms seem to favor individuals and businesses from frivolous and fraudulent claims. In March, House Republicans advanced bills long supported by corporations and doctors, including putting a cap on medical malpractice awards. The changes limit the ability of some Americans to seek legal remedies from powerful institutions.

  • New Ways to Resolve Problems

More alternative dispute resolution options are becoming more accessible to people, including arbitration and pre-litigation mediation. With these, a number of complaints can be remedied without ever seeing a lawsuit being filed.

Plus, better safety technology has resulted in fewer road accidents. A number of states have also introduced new damages caps which make attorneys far less likely to take on risky cases.



California $49 Million Personal Injury Award and Need for Reforms

Posted in Tort Reform at 6:15 pm by kevin

On Monday, this week, a Santa Clara, California jury awarded $49 million in a single personal injury case. The short version of the case is that two trucks collided and one struck the Toyota Avalon that college student Drew Bianchi, 21-years-old was riding in. The result of the accident was traumatic brain injury to Bianchi.

The Northern California jury awarded $27.6 million in future medical expenses, $3.4 million in past medical expenses, $4.5 million in future lost wages and $13.5 million in general damages. The Santa Clara jury pool is generally thought to be conservative compared to other San Francisco area juries. This was the largest verdict in 10 years in Santa Clara County.

The sheer size of this award for a single person in an automobile accident will cause some people to become very vocal about two kinds of reform including lawsuit reform and healthcare reform.

Those who argue for lawsuit reform say that personal injury lawsuits should not be out of line with similar cases and should not unduly punish those who make mistakes. The costs of these large lawsuits is one cause that makes auto insurance rates to go up.

Those in favor of healthcare reform say that if healthcare costs were not so high right now, then juries would not feel compelled to award as much money for future healthcare costs in personal injury cases.

No matter which side of the arguments you are on, one thing is certain which is there is a causal relationship between large lawsuit awards and both the cost of auto insurance and health insurance. And those costs are spread out among those who did not receive the large awards from the juries.


Three Oklahoma Tort Reform Bills Passes Senate

Posted in Frivolous Lawsuits, Tort Reform at 1:17 pm by kevin

Three major tort reform bills have passed the Oklahoma State Senate. One bill, SB 824, is authored by Democratic State Senator Susan Paddack, which protects doctors against frivolous lawsuits. The bi-partisan bills passed an evenly divided Senate and now make their way to the House.

The other two lawsuit reform bills, SB 1024 and SB 507 are sponsored by republican senators, Owen Laughlin and Cliff Branan, respectively. SB 1024 helps teachers and educators maintain discipline in the classroom without fear of lawsuit.

SB 507 was written initially to protect volunteers and others who help charitable organizations remain exempt from liability when helping in emergency situations such as transportation needs. Democratic Senator Jay Paul Gumm, then tacked on a seemingly unrelated amendment to this bill to protect firearm manufacturers from liability from criminal use of their weapons.

Tort reform has been a hot button issue in recent times, pitting Republicans and Democrats against one another in sometimes quite contentious battles. Many see tort reform as means to redistribution of wealth within this country while others view it on purely ideological basis. It is refreshing, however, to see politicians working out common sense tort reform issues on a bi-partisan basis that will benefit the most people possible.