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Needs for “Claims Bill” In Brain Injury Case Reveals Tort Reform Harm

Our Chicago brain injury lawyers know that one of the claims that those advocating “tort reform” make is that the legal system is too inefficient and costly to handle most claims. They suggest that these proposals are a more logical, stream-lined and fair ways to handle disputes. Of course, they are nothing of the sort. Instead, these laws do not make the legal system more streamlined-they simply throw up more roadblocks for recovery for those hurt by the misconduct of others, including Illinois brain injury victims.

However, because so much political debate these days occurs only in sound bites-and not reasoned consideration of actual policy issues-it is difficult for most members of the public to truly analyze how these bills will affect them. For most, the only time that they experience the effects of these damaging pieces of legislation is when they themselves are hurt or have a family member who seeks help from the legal system to hold those who harmed them accountable. It is then that the true effects are felt and the injustice of the rule changes are made apparent.

It is our hope that by continuing to share stories of those who are adversely effected by misguided tort reform laws that more people will begin to fight back against the political efforts of those seeking to alter the legal system in fundamental ways-and not for the better.

One common example involves plaintiffs who are forced to engage in lengthy, protracted battles to actually collect damage awards even after an impartial jury heard the evidence and reached a unanimous ruling in their favor. For example, the Miami Herald reported this week on a young child who suffered a debilitating brain injury at birth. The medical providers who delivered him acted in appropriately during his birth, leading to a range of lifelong challenges. As a result of the injury he has only partial use of his arms, legs, and mouth. That hasn’t slowed him down, however. His parents proudly explain that he is a straight-A student. However, the family struggles to provide what the child needs. If he had around-the-clock care, he would likely be able to flourish.

Five years ago, the family won a verdict in their favor following a brain injury lawsuit being filed. A jury awarded the family $30 million, but the child hasn’t seen a dime. That is because the law in the state requires that when a public body is involved, like in this case, actually dispensing funds requires a “claims bill” to pass through the state legislature. That means that even after winning the jury verdict the family is forced to wade through political muck in order to try to collect the damage award. This usually involves hiring lobbyists and making pleas to legislatures to approve something that a jury already ruled upon. In this case, even five years later, nothing has been done. It remains unclear if anything ever will be done. All impartial observers cannot argue that adding these extra hoops for victims to jump through does anything but slow down the judicial system and interfere with justice actually being done.

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