December 14, 2012

Understanding “Tort Reform” By the Numbers

by Levin & Perconti

The phrase Tort Reform refers to a movement backed by large corporations and special interest groups to make it more difficult for injured plaintiffs to reach the courtroom and to cap their damages if they do actually reach the courtroom. These groups seek to limit corporations’ liability when they act negligently. They often claim that plaintiffs file hundreds of thousands of frivolous lawsuits, costing the American taxpayer money, and clogging up the justice system.

As reported in a previous post, the Center for Justice and Democracy released a briefing book this month on tort litigation and juries that provides excellent statistics on just how aggravated the issue of tort reform is by special interest groups that seek to limit plaintiffs access to the courtroom. This briefing book helps us to understand that tort reform is nothing but an excuse to keep corporations from facing liability for their negligence.

Some of the more impactful statistics in the Center for Justice and Democracy’s book relate to the number of tort filings in the United States. For instance, while special interest groups that argue for tort reform claim that there are thousands of frivolous lawsuits filed each year, in actuality only two percent of injured Americans file lawsuits seeking compensation for their injuries. Additionally, according to data from the National Center for State Courts, tort cases represented only a measly six percent of all the civil cases of 17 states that reported this data. This number is not a fluke; it has remained under 7 percent since 2007. Therefore, any claims that tort claims are out of control and exceedingly numerous and simply unfounded.

Another claim that tort reformers often make is that plaintiffs win too many jury trials and that those who win awards are winning astronomical sums. The Center for Justice and Democracy’s Book shows that these are false claims. For instance, long term data from state trials in the United State’s 75 most populous counties show that the plaintiff win rate in tort cases win about half of the time from 1996 through 2005. Additionally, a national sample of state courts showed that half of plaintiffs who won in tort trials were awarded $24,000 or less in damages. In fact, the median amount that plaintiffs won in tort trials has remained in the $30,000’s since 1996.

One of the goals of tort reform is to place caps on the amounts that injured plaintiffs can win. Capping damages would limit a victim’s rights to be compensated, leaving them powerless. Our personal injury attorneys stand by the belief that every victim of negligence has the right to seek fair and reasonable compensation to hold corporations, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies fully accountable for their mistakes. At Levin & Perconti, we believe that all victims of negligence have the right to seek adequate compensation for the harms caused. We believe that a jury of our peers unbiased by political agendas should decide what constitutes adequate compensation.

The legal process is complicated and involved. Throughout that process, we constantly work to bring justice to you and hold all wrongdoers accountable. We are committed to achieving the best possible results for you in the shortest amount of time, while ensuring that justice is served and you are fairly compensated. If you have been a victim of negligence and believe that you deserve access to the courtroom and just compensation for your injuries, please contact our office to find out your legal rights.