If you have had a conversation with anyone about birth injury lawsuits or any other medical malpractice related issue, then its likely that tort reform issues came up. In fact, there is so much news made about efforts to curb the rights of community members following malpractice that the debate on limiting the rights greatly overshadows the actual discussion of limiting malpractice and improving patient safety. This is incredibly unfortunate, because many continue to suffer serious harm (or even death) as a result of unreasonable care. At times this includes the most vulnerable patients among us–newborns.
A robust and fair civil justice system is an important piece of the the patient safety puzzle–accountability is necessary for improvement. For that reason, we urge local residents to remain informed about the civil justice system, particularly as it relates to tort litigation like most birth injury lawsuits. A helpful primer on that front was recently released by the Center for Justice & Democracy. The short report (download here) shares a lot of helpful information that can be used to fight back against those who are calling for taking away legal rights for community members.
The facts are on the side of those hoping to prevent further deterioration of the civil justice system. The claims made by proponents of tort reform–often insurance companies and powerful medical interests–bear little resemblance to reality.
Are “Frivolous” Lawsuits a Problem?
For example, by far the most common critique shared by those supporting these laws is that there is too much tort litigation. People sue one another at the drop of a hat, the arguement goes, and so we need to take away some rights to make it harder for certain individuals to file a lawsuit and seek accountable. But are those claims true?
The CJ&D Briefing Book points out that, in reality, only 2% of injured community members ever file a lawsuit. The notion that there is a sudden problem with everyone looking for someone to sue is completely false. Frivolous lawsuits are mostly a fabrication made by those seeking to influence public opinion, nothing more.
The truth is that the civil justice system is not clogged with tort cases–business disputes are far more common. Contract claims are several times over more common that personal injury claims. Breach of agreement, debt collection, and other business matters lead the way in most areas when it comes to use of the justice system. And the trends are continuing in that direction. One study found that over a recent ten year period certain business claims increased by 63% while tort claims decreased by 25%.
Taken together this paints the troubling reality: big interests are using the justice system to help themselves more than ever while trying to further limit the rights of individual consumers to do the same. It is an example of extreme hypocrisy. Apparently access to a fair, impartial jury is important when businesses have money to gain, but access to that jury is dangeorus when it is individuals who are seeking fairness. Considering that the justice system has always been the place where everyone was supposed to be on the same playing field, it is critical the these tort reform efforts are defeated.
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