FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-12-03
The most important reason behind a legal system that allows injury victims to pursue damages is accountability. Society recognizes that people need a forum to address the issue of who should pay when something has gone very wrong.
Two areas of personal injury liability that often involve large companies as defendants are claims involving defective products and medical malpractice. Responding to concerns that powerful corporations have gained momentum in restricting plaintiffs’ options by lobbying for changes in state and federal law, a national group of trial lawyers recently launched a website to bring attention to what they see as an erosion of civil justice rights.
The American Association for Justice’s Take Justice Back site provides information about specific instances of injustice, a range of statistics, and rebuttals to commonly held assumptions about personal injury litigation in America, including these facts:
- According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), tort cases (personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits) declined by a quarter over the past decade, and currently make up only about five percent of civil court caseloads
- Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that the median award in a tort case is only $31,000, and awards have decreased in recent years
- Punitive damages are sought by only about five percent of all successful plaintiffs
- According to the NCSC and the National Practitioner Databank, medical malpractice payments have dropped significantly since 2001
Groups like the Institute for Legal Reform, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the American Tort Reform Association spend tens of millions of dollars every year lobbying for changes to the U.S. civil justice system that favor defendants. These groups provide model legislation to states or file lawsuits against government regulators in support of the vested interests of the companies that fund them.
South Carolina is among the many states that have passed significant caps on damages in certain types of lawsuits. Medical malpractice liability in South Carolina is limited to $350,000 in noneconomic damages against a single defendant, or $1.05 million in cases involving multiple health care providers or institutions.
Take Justice Back argues that tort reform movements and inaccurate characterizations of “frivolous” personal injury lawsuits have harmed Americans’ access to justice. That argument is backed by a claim that many of the safety systems in the cars we drive today only came about because a company was successfully sued for inadequate or dangerous parts and systems.
Holding all potentially liable parties accountable is the goal of effective personal injury advocacy. An attorney can explain a client’s likelihood for success and the importance of preparing a strong case for compensation from the outset.