As Arizona personal injury attorneys, trying to unwind years of insurance company and corporate propaganda while speaking with new clients occurs far to often. While some of these myths are self-induced, stemming from corny billboards and dumb commercials, others are primarily driven by “tort reform” – a corporate, orchestrated attack on personal injury victims and attorneys with the goal to turn public opinion against those of us who fight for justice every single day. Predominantly backed by Corporate America and billion-dollar insurance companies, the proponents of “tort reform” mislead the American public, inventing terms like “frivolous lawsuits,” and “jackpot justice.” They allege that large settlements threaten the economy and undermine the ability of the American legal system to fairly administer justice. Advocates have used an array of media outlets to back these claims through a series of selective and even falsified reports; framing several law suits as “frivolous” and an “abuse of the courts”. As a result of the celebritization of select lawsuits, several myths and fallacies have transpired regarding personal injury lawsuits. This blog will identify a few of those misconceptions with the goal to decipher myth verse reality.
The frivolous lawsuit myth was created as a big business tactic to convert legitimate civil cases into urban folklores. Through the use of various media outlets, the insurance and big business lobby has been very successful in creating a negative image towards those willing to file a lawsuit and a heroic persona for those who do not. Ultimately, this stigmatism has created the conception that those who are willing to file a personal injury claim are acting out of greed and selfishness. However, in examining the actual facts presented, verse claims made by media sources in past cases deemed “frivolous,” such as the McDonald’s Hot Coffee case, the Drunk Driving Phone Booth Accident, as well as the Ladder and The Manure case, at least one commonality emerges; An honest person suffered a legitimate injury due to another’s misrepresentation or negligence.
The truth is, nearly all personal injury claims are filed by honest people who have sustained legitimate injuries because of another’s negligence. In fact, a personal injury lawsuit may represent the only way to get life back on track for many who have suffered serious or even life-threating injuries. For those who attempt to beat the system, judges are permitted to dismiss any case lacking merit well before a trial. Additionally, attorneys who attempt to file such claims face the risk of sanctions, which can be bestowed upon them from the judge hearing the case. Here are some facts:
Many uphold the belief that by simply filing a personal injury claim, they will receive compensation, after all, the billboard does say: “In a wreck; need a check?” I am sorry to burst that bubble, but personal injury lawsuits do not epitomize a quick and easy paycheck. In fact, personal injury attorneys work tirelessly to battle insurance companies in an effort to get victims the just compensation they deserve. The fact of the matter is that insurance companies are in a business to make a profit. If they were to pay out every individual who made a personal injury claim, it can be assumed that their profit margins would be reduced significantly. How would they pay for all of those Super Bowl commercials and marketing wizardry then? For this reason, insurance companies do everything in their power to not pay out; thus it is imperative to consult an aggressive personal injury attorney in the unfortunate circumstance that a friend or loved one suffers an injury.
Personal injury attorneys work extremely hard to ensure that victims receive the compensation needed to regain control of their lives. However, it is a mistaken belief that plaintiffs pocket 100 percent of their settlement. Every party involved in a personal injury incident, including the medical providers and the insurance company who pays the medical bills must also be compensated.
Understand that, when an individual suffers an injury, the hospital, physical therapist, chiropractor, surgeon, doctors, and even YOUR OWN health insurance company that may have paid the bills will have a hand in the settlement pot. Each provider who rendered service, treatment, or paid any bill, will file a legal lien against your settlement – meaning you are financially responsible to repay for services provided. If you do not pay them, they will sue you for the amount you owe them.
You need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney to help you navigate any legal or financial obligations with the money once you settle and, hopefully, work with the lien holders to increase the amount in your pocket.
Because of the media attention that select lawsuits have received, we are all very much aware that plaintiffs, in some cases, receive very large verdicts or settlements. That withstanding, multimillion-dollar settlements are far from the norm. In reality, only 4 percent of all plaintiffs are awarded $1 million or more. In fact the median award is roughly $31,000 and according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the amount of compensation plaintiffs receive for injury settlements has actually been decreasing. So, once again I am sorry to burst the bubble, but the chances of winning any perceived “lawsuit lottery” do not exist. There is no such lottery – just full and fair compensation.
That being said, the value of an injury case is contingent on a variety of factors including, but not limited to the seriousness of injuries, the cost of current and future medical care, whether the victim has suffered permanent impairment, lost income as a result of the injury, pain and strain on emotional well being and the amount of insurance coverage available.
Business groups, insurance companies advocating tort reform have been largely successful in brain washing the general public to believe that; in compensating injury victims, the public would pay the ultimate price with decreased employment, lower corporate spending on research and development as well as increased premiums, and taxes. Shockingly, even the 2004 Economic Report of the President falsely claimed that: “Tort liability leads to lower spending on research and development, higher health care costs, and job losses.” In researching these claims, one would find each of these allegations to be false. Actually, according to the Economic Policy institute, there is no correlation between the “inflated estimates of the costs of the tort system and corporate profits, product quality, productivity, or research and development spending.” In fact, the study suggested the opposite, concluding, “significant tort reform change would be more likely to slow employment growth than to promote it. Endlessly repeating that so-called ‘tort reform’ will create jobs does not make it true.” So, ask yourself, do you really believe insurance companies would lower premiums if fewer injury claimants sought justice? Unfortunately, the answer is no. On average, the liability premium is higher in states that have implemented legislation meant to cap damage awards than those states that have not. Essentially this propaganda is an opportunistic strategy used by big businesses to take advantage of a volatile economic climate and ultimately avoid liability for wrong doings.