In the battle over “tort reform.” those seeking to limit the legal rights of community members frequently used shorthand stock phrases in an attempt to mislead the public into assuming a problem exists where one does not. Most notably, this includes constant mention of “lawsuit abuse.” The claim is made that the country is filled with greedy citizens who are constantly filing lawsuits against innocent big businesses only to receive a quick payday.
A recent newspaper column made that argument, and the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyer’s Association, Stephen D. Phillips, responded in an attempt to set the record straight. Phillips explained the obvious problem with misleading the community into believing that all those who seek legal recourse via the civil justice system are likely there only for avarice. That could not be further from the truth–no one wants to be injured and forced to use the court system to recover as much of their losses as possible. They are forced into that situation.
Reaching Prudent Decisions
In the original column, suggestions were made that injury lawsuits, including those connected to medical malpractice, were more often than not spurred by the injured party’s inability to take responsibility for their own actions. In short, plaintiffs should realize that their own actions led to the harm and just move on.
It is easy to see how big companies and chronic defendants would benefit from that approach, but it completely distorts the reality of the civil justice system and the everyday community members who rely on this in the midst of trauma and grief.
Frivolous lawsuits are an epidemic, tort reformers say, without pointing to any actual statistics which support the assumption that most plaintiffs do not have real injuries. In reality, the opposite is true. As Phillips points out, “Injured people are often delayed compensation because of routinely filed frivolous defenses to meritorious lawsuits. They defend the indefensible for years to wear suffering individuals down financially and force them to take less than fair compensation for their injuries.”
Judge Each Case on Its Merits
TIme and again those seeking to limit rights completely ignore the entire purpose of the civil justice system. The system is designed to get to the root of truth about any given situation. The world is complicated and everyday individuals interact with each others in countless ways. At times, those interactions can lead to serious injury or even death.When negligence on the part of one person or business causes that harm, then the injured party should receive compensation.
The justice system exists to facilitate that process on an individual basis. But tort reformer proponents repeatedly try to whitewash everything with one broad brush. For example, the entire purpose of “damage cap” laws is to make blanket assumptions about what is fair and just in every situation without individual analysis of any actual case. This flies directly in the face of what make the system worthwhile to begin with.
It is time to put an end to these misleading and harmful attempts to take away the legal rights of Illinois residents once and for all.
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