What is tort reform? Does anyone out there other than attorneys and politicians really know what tort reform is? I think most people out there have been completely misled as to what tort reform actually is, not to mention how it would affect them. We have been misled by those who it will affect in a negative way, like corporations and insurance companies.
I am a forty (I mean, twenty nine) year-old woman who works for an attorney, and whose father was an attorney, and I am ashamed to say that I did not understand what tort reform meant until a few months ago. What happened a few months ago? Well, the attorney I work for mails out law bulletins for his clients a few times a year and the topic this time was, you guessed it, tort reform. This inspired me to take a deeper look into the topic.
I realized when I started researching that his bulletin was barely the tip of the iceberg. He would never have been able to include everything on the topic in a one page bulletin. Tort reform research is a daunting task; let me tell you, we will never reach the end of the debate. This is because there are too many high profile players in this game and too much money involved.
I will tell you this, the more someone has to lose, the harder they work to protect it Insurance companies and many large corporations stand to lose a lot without tort reform. The problem for us is that we purchase insurance to take the brunt of the impact for us, yet, despite accepting our business, insurance companies really do not want to take the brunt of the impact. They want to take our money and avoid the impact. They want to eat their cake, and have it too.
So, what is tort reform? Well, according to Wikipedia, “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.” Basically, this means, if someone causes you harm or damage, then they are responsible to pay you for your injuries or damages. Wouldn’t anyone want that? I think if you are injured or you incur damages due to someone else’s fault, then you should be entitled to be reimbursed by that person, don’t you? Isn’t that what we teach our children?
I understand some people try to take advantage of the system--that will happen no matter what type of restrictions we try to impose. (Animals have been known to eat their own kind when starving, after all.) Therefore, we should punish the majority for the sins of the few? That is ridiculous. Isn’t that why we have a legal system, for impartial judgement and rulings of our situations as governed by our laws?
I also understand that too many cases like these can cost a lot of money, but for whom? Well, this is a complaint that originates from the insurance companies who do not want to pay for claims they have promised to cover, and from large corporations who do not want to be held responsible for their negligence.
The fact is that hundreds of thousands of people are injured every year due to the actions of others. The fact is that those responsible should be held accountable. You do not see your neighbor or your brother trying to push tort reform so they don’t have to pay for the medical bills they caused someone due to hitting them with their car. And, even if you did, almost everyone around would cry out at the injustice. So why do we allow the insurance companies and corporations to continue their injustice? Because we have been duped into believing that these lawsuits cause the skyrocketing costs of our insurance.
What actually causes the skyrocketing costs of our insurance? The greed of the insurance companies, the greed that drives them to deny covering the costs we have paid them to cover, costs they have promised to cover; the greed of large corporations that do not want to pay out when they have been negligent. Think of all the Enron employees who lost their entire life savings due to fraud. Can anyone think of anything other than greed that fueled this disaster?
Imagine if the people hurt by these companies were barred from any legal recourse. Is that the country we want to live in? The country where there is no Bill of Rights? That is what tort reform would create, no legal recourse for people who have a legitimate claim in which someone else caused their undue damages or injuries. Is that what you want when it is your child who dies from a mistake made by the pharmaceutical company? Do you want to have to fight the insurance company to pay the bills you incurred when the hospital was trying to save your husband’s or wife’s life? How about not being allowed to sue the hospital where your child died due to a surgical error?
Do these seem like frivolous lawsuits? Hell no! However, it does seem frivolous to consider tort reform. What would not be frivolous in helping to prevent an abundance of lawsuits like these? Preventing or limiting the injuries or damages. Putting our efforts into learning how to reduce medical errors instead of reducing the rights of the American people.
In contrast, many worldwide companies come to the United States to do business because of the fairness in our laws. They want others to be accountable, and in doing so, they agree to accept their own accountability. Why are insurance companies and otherwise large American corporations different? They claim that they “cannot compete” with the world because of the torts laws of the United States. The tort laws keep them accountable, and in doing so, compel them to make safe products for our use. Assume that tort reform takes away our rights to sue. No matter how badly you get hurt, from a dangerously made product, you cannot sue. This right has been taken from you. Are you comfortable with that? What else, other than the laws of the United States, compels companies to make safe products? The simple answer is, nothing. Only their fear of being held financially liable, compels them to act as we expect them to act. Take that away, and we are in deep trouble.
My opinion on this topic comes completely from reading everything I could find on it and using my own common sense. As I said before, no one could possibly cover everything about tort reform in one page, however, I thought maybe the topic would be a little easier to understand coming from someone like me, an average, middle aged (ugh!), working mother. Please, do your own research; I am confident that you will come to the same conclusion.