Don’t Think It Won’t Happen to You

By Bob Schwartz

Over the years, tort reform advocates have affected many changes in state and federal laws. Those changes affect innocent victims’ access to the courthouse through their basic constitutional right to a trial by jury. To understand and truly appreciate these precious rights, you have to have been in the position to have to exercise them. Those who support tort reform organizations and legislators who support tort reform have not been the innocent victim of another’s negligence. Rest assured, however, that at some point in time, they will be. We will all be the innocent victim of another’s negligence and will have to seek to hold the wrongdoer accountable. I can also assure you that those tort reforming innocent victims will not like what they see when they get their turn.

But it is not just their own deformed laws and remedies that they will not like. They will also dislike the power their tort reform measures have put in the hands of insurance industry. Since the first big round of tort reform in Texas in 1995, every legislative act that limits lawsuits, legal protections and remedies, and damages really only served to empower the insurance industry. All of these laws favoring their business make them wealthier and stronger. They became the bully in the schoolyard, and they do what they want to do. The insurance industry has all the power and calls all the shots. They delete coverage when there is an increase in claims. They pay what they want to pay to settle claims. They do not fairly and promptly settle claims. They make claimants file lawsuits to hold the company accountable when the public sentiment from the tort reform propaganda that influences prospective jurors is anti-lawsuit.

Think it won’t happen to you? Just look at car wreck statistics. Look at the mountain of statistics compiled and analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website (http://www.nhtsa.gov/). I have edited one NHTSA table below to show the increase in total car wreck fatalities from 2009 and the number of tort reform measures by state. The number of tort reform measures in a state directly correlates to and decreases your ability to make a fair and prompt resolution of your car wreck claim.

Another table shows the total number of people injured or killed in car wrecks. The table shows that in 2009, over 2.25 million people were thrust into the tort deformed system from car wrecks alone. Many of these were innocent victims, and most if not all of those innocent victims were totally unaware of how tort reform organizations have affected their ability to get compensated through access to the civil justice system and their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

So, think twice before you quickly believe a sexy sound bite about lawsuit abuse. To tort reformers, every personal injury lawsuit is abusive. Think about who benefits from tort reform. Think about who wins and who loses. Remember that tort reform limits citizens’ rights to hold wrongdoers accountable. This old adage about finances will surely apply to a tort deformed system: a recession is when you lose all of your money; a depression is when I lose all of my money. In other words, it is a frivolous lawsuit when others need access to the courts, but a deformed system when you need access to the courts.

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