History of Tort Reform

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Tort reform refers to a series of legislative actions aimed at taking away the rights of injured Americans. Historically, the tort reform agenda has been pushed not by concerned citizens, but by large corporations and the insurance industry in an attempt to strip innocent victims of their legal right to seek justice for injuries they have suffered as a result of someone else's wrongdoing.

For years, tort reform advocates have been propagating lies about a mythic “explosion of litigation” in the United States that they claim is bankrupting doctors, reducing hospital efficiency, and destroying the economy. However, this so-called crisis is nothing but an illusion created to limit the liability of the wrongdoer and allow big businesses and insurance companies to increase their profits with public support.

The Beginnings of Tort Reform

A push for big business and industry accountability in the 1950s prompted the rise of the movement that would later be called tort reform. The insurance industry grew anxious as the question of liability encompassed civil litigation: Who was responsible for compensating victims of personal injury or death suffered at the hands of another party? The answer—insurance companies. In retaliation, the insurance industry initiated an anti-lawsuit campaign that continues to this day.

The campaign involved anti-lawsuit magazine ads targeted at potential jurors who they thought were likely to hurt their profits by awarding excessive compensation awards. By the 1960s these ads had become increasingly misleading. Some even depicted fictionalized lawsuit accounts designed to mimic real documentaries. The goal was to create a rabid anti-lawsuit culture within the general population from which jurors would be selected.

The Politics of Tort Reform

The insurance industry and big business proponents strived to take their anti-lawsuit campaign—now referred to as tort reform—a step further in the mid-1980s. They stormed onto the political front in a lobbying frenzy to push their agenda by petitioning lawmakers to enact legislation that would place caps on economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, making it increasingly more difficult for victims to receive compensation for their losses.

Because the interests of these big businesses coincided with those of political conservatives in office at the time, the government stood behind the movement whole-heartedly. Political conservatives realized that by immersing themselves in the anti-lawsuit culture, they could increase their odds of getting pro-big business officials appointed to various public offices.

Tort Reform “Grassroots” Campaigns

Over the course of the years, tort reform advocates developed new strategies to push their agenda. They created organizations that masqueraded as “grassroots” in an effort to coerce legislators and garner public support for their anti-lawsuit cause. Organizations, such as the Manhattan Institute and the American Tort Reform Association appeared to be made up of concerned citizens, but were actually financially supported by large corporations and insurance companies.

These puppet organizations helped to funnel the funds they received from big business into state level organizations that aimed to further the anti-lawsuit sentiment. Furthermore, the alleged “grassroots” groups upped the ante by deceiving passionate citizens fighting for a cause.

Tort Reform Today

Advocates continue to spread myths and misinformation about tort reform in an attempt to convince the public that frivolous lawsuits pose a serious threat to the well being of the United States. This explains why 80 percent of Americans today think there is an increasing litigation crisis that threatens to drive doctors out of business and destroy the economy despite these facts:

  • Studies show that there has actually been a marked decrease in the number of lawsuits filed since the mid-1980s.
  • A May 2006 study by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that 97 percent of medical malpractice claims are not frivolous .
  • The average amount of compensation awarded in tort lawsuits is declining .
  • Only one in eight people who are injured at the hands of another party actually file a claim.
  • Medical malpractice lawsuits make up only five percent of all tort claims, and product liability makes up another five percent. Most claims are filed by one citizen against another .

Tort reform threatens to strip Americans of their constitutional rights. If you have suffered serious injury or death as a result of a medical professional's negligence or wrongdoing, it is important to know that you have the legal right to hold that person accountable for your losses. Please contact us today for a FREE consultation with a qualified and compassionate medical malpractice attorney who believes that jurors—not big businesses—should decide what “fair compensation” means.

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