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Tort reform - changes in personal injuries

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If after David beat Goliath the government decreed that henceforth when people fight giants, they must do so with six-inch sling shots and pebbles instead of rocks, there would be a huge outcry of protest. However, the changes that are being imbedded in our legal system in the name of tort reform are attempting to do the same thing.

There have been efforts (some successful) in Congress and many state legislatures to make it more difficult for an injured person to pursue a lawsuit and to limit the amount that can be recovered. Part of the impetus for this reform is a misconception that injured people are somehow taking advantage of insurance companies and corporate America. The truth is before an individual files a lawsuit against a large business, he or she better be armed with more than a slingshot as there is a long tough battle ahead that usually will not be won unless the facts warrant such and sometimes not even then.

Another reason people feel reform is necessary is the perception that unscrupulous, greedy lawyers are ruining the system. Obviously the over-zealous conduct of some attorneys needs to be curtailed. However, such conduct is exhibited by both plaintiff and defense counsel. So, if any changes are made to the system, we must make certain they equally impact both sides and do not adversely affect the ability of an injured person to obtain fair compensation.

From time to time an individual will receive an outlandish jury award for a small case. This is akin to someone continually playing a slot machine and eventually hitting the jackpot. It is these jackpots that receive big press coverage because instant wealth is deemed newsworthy. However, simply because this occasionally happens doesn’t mean that we need to toughen the odds from it happening again.

There are already many safeguards in place in our legal system to prevent outrageous results. For example, a judge has the power to reduce a jury award when it is deemed appropriate. This is far more appropriate than an across-the-board money cap imposed by a legislative body. The judge knows the law, is familiar with the case, and can recognize an absurd dollar amount. Unfortunately, these judicial reductions usually are back page news items compared to an initial award decision.

When an individual is hurt or injured, it can be extremely difficult to receive fair compensation as he or she is usually doing battle with a giant in the form of a big corporation, an entity with unlimited legal resources. The expenses attached to a lawsuit dictate that the injured person thoroughly explore a settlement for a sum close to what is fair before filing suit. To suggest that these individuals take advantage of big companies in the legal arena is as illogical as saying that David took advantage of Goliath.

Do we really want to limit the amount of money a person can receive to a figure such as $250,000.00 plus medical bills? This may seem like a lot of money that could keep most of us happy for a long time, but it is usually insufficient when an injured victim has a permanent disability that will affect the individual’s quality of life for the remainder of their life. Imagine only receiving $250,000.00 if you lose or limb or are paralyzed.

Before supporting tort reform we must remember that the playing field is already tilted in favor of the giants. It seems totally inappropriate to tilt the field even more. David has a tough enough job.

December 18, 2008

Article Source: Messaggiamo.Com


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