Monday, August 31, 2009

“I Know a Few Good Trial Lawyers!”
by John Alexander Madison
August 31, 2009

They are good people. Of course, there are good trials lawyers and some bad ones. There are good law enforcement officers and some who are less than perfect. There are good teachers and some who are not so good. There are honest people in business and some unscrupulous ones. There are good truck drivers and, I’m sure, some careless ones too. There are good politicians and public servants and some terrible ones. After all they are all human, imperfect and flawed in many ways but for the most part they are still good, hard-working and decent people…people from diverse backgrounds with a variety of experiences and religious beliefs and various ancestries, from all walks of life.

But this is not about trial lawyers, nor law enforcement officers, nor teachers, business people, truck drivers, nor politicians. Well, not exactly, this is about political corruption…it is about special interest groups, such as the trial lawyers association, and the political process. A process which ignores the interests of the very people politicians were elected to serve in favor of the powerful interests of those who put personal gain, in pursuit of accumulating excessive power and personal wealth, ahead of the citizens of this great nation.

It is Time for Tort Reform

Why are conservatives, primarily Republicans, insisting that tort reform be included in the healthcare bill being run through Congress like a runaway train? And why is it that President Obama and the arrogant leadership of the Democrat Party in control of Congress just aren’t listening? You’d think they are all auditioning for a role in the Broadway debut of the Marlee Matlin story, acting like they just can’t hear anything from anyone…and certainly not the opposition. Simply put, they are out of control.

According to Wikipedia: “tort” (a noun) is a wrongful act, not including a breach of contract or trust, that results in injury to another's person, property, reputation, or the like, and for which the injured party is entitled to compensation. And that’s where the “fun” begins…at least for trial lawyers. As a result of such injuries trial lawyers are ready, willing and quite able to acquire multi-million dollar settlements for their injured clients. We’re not here to suggest that those who have suffered injuries shouldn’t be compensated for their injuries, nor are we here to judge how much compensation is appropriate for each type of injury. Some injuries can be devastating and life-altering for the victims and their families. And when that happens we can agree that they need proper legal representation to help them through the quagmire of the legal process in an effort to receive deserved and reasonable compensation for their injuries.

So what is Tort reform?
Tort reform refers to proposed changes in the civil justice system that would reduce tort litigation or damages. Tort is a system for compensating wrongs and harm done by one party to another's person, property or other protected interests (e.g. reputation, under libel and slander laws). Tort reform advocates focus on personal injury in particular. Accident compensation procedures, compensation, and reform proposals vary greatly among jurisdictions; with a general upwards trend in compensation.

In the United States tort reform is a contentious political issue. U.S. tort reform advocates propose, among other things, procedural limits on the ability to file claims, and capping the awards of damages. According to Forbes reporter Daniel Fisher, "A catchall phrase for legislative measures designed to make it harder for individuals to sue businesses." I’ll be the first to state that if you have wronged another, you should provide reasonable compensation to them for their injuries and, yes, to their attorneys as well. Key word: “reasonable.”

However, attorney’s contingent fees vary depending on the type of case and individual practice, and often range from 33 1/3% in many tort cases to up to 50%. A uniform 10% cap would make most of these cases uneconomical to prosecute, and most people would no longer be able to have their claim or dispute decided in the civil justice system—so claim the lawyers.

There’s not a more appropriate poster boy among personal injury lawyers than former United States Senator, former Presidential candidate wannabe, and unsuccessful Democrat Party Vice Presidential nominee Senator John Edwards. He had a well-publicized extramarital affair while his wife was battling cancer; he fathered a child in that relationship and then lied about it. That was described as embarrassing. Talk about embarrassing, he also became obscenely wealthy as a trial lawyer representing many clients who suffered from the wrongful acts of others. How obscene? Read on.

His law practice turned out to be highly lucrative, turning Edwards into a multimillionaire. His adversaries in the courtroom were often doctors, hospitals and insurance companies. Edwards' net worth, most coming from awards won as a medical malpractice and personal-injury attorney, has been reported to be in excess of $54 million. In 1990, he was named to the Inner Circle of Advocates, an elite group of the 100 most successful personal injury lawyers in the country.

And we wonder why healthy care is so expensive? The time for tort reform is now.

Is the currently proposed federal health care legislation a bi-partisan plan in the best interests of all U.S. citizens? Hardly.

The Democrat Party is beholden to the trial lawyers association and that’s why the liberals controlling Congress (Ds and a few Rs) will not consider, in any way shape or form, the inclusion of tort reform in this so-called “comprehensive” national health care program.

America has the best health care system in the world but we can all agree it is, at times, somewhat expensive. So how better to lower health care costs than to insist on tort reform.

What can you do? Contact your members of Congress, or every member of Congress for that matter, and tell them the time for tort reform is now!

1 comment:

  1. Like most complicated issues, the rationale for tort reform is a matter of degree. States that have recently enacted tort reform -- Mississippi and Texas come to mind -- used to attract plaintiff's attorneys who viewed those forums as lucrative places to file cases. Juries were loose with money and businesses suffered. It seems reasonable to lessen the incentive to file untenable cases and cases filed for the sole purpose of legal extortion through tort reform. Understand, however, that tort reform carried too far can mean its is harder to collect reimbursement of medical bills, damaged property, and lost wages caused by someone else's carelessness. Insurance companies fight ferociously before they give reasonable settlements. Litigation has benefits: it is the high cost of litigation, for example, that motivates hospitals to improve procedures and labeling to avoid lawsuits. Improved procedures and labels avoid mistakes and save lives. It is often very hard for one whose life has not been affected by serious injury to understand how difficult the road to financial recovery can be. Making the cases harder to file, beyond the tort reform that Colorado has now as an example, will only serve to give insurance companies and responsible parties more means to delay and raise the costs for injured parties -- that means the attorneys and insurance companies get richer at the expense of the person who needs the money to pay for medical care, to replace property, or to add some comfort to a painful existence.