Buffalo Injury Victims Should Know What’s at Stake When Politicians Talk “Tort Reform”

Feb 2013

Buffalo attorneyOn November 13, 2012, the American Association for Justice announced a new grassroots campaign called Take Justice Back. The purpose of the campaign is to educate the public on corporate efforts to limit the effectiveness of the civil justice system and to encourage activism.

The civil justice system gives power to people who are injured and forces corporations, employers, dangerous drivers, doctors and other negligent or careless individuals to obey the law and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Our Buffalo accident attorneys applaud the efforts of “Take Justice Back” to draw attention to the corporate pressure for tort reform that limits the effectiveness of civil justice.


What is Take Justice Back?

Take Justice Back is a campaign to fight for the rights of accident victims, employees and customers and to stand up against corporations that want to limit those rights. Corporations and special interest spend hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to limit their exposure to liability and Take Justice Back is working to help consumers understand what impact these corporations are having and to fight back.

Specifically, Take Justice Back is intended to help educate consumers on what tort reform is, what tort reform really means, and why the corporate line on tort reform doesn’t represent the whole story.

Understanding Tort Reform

Tort reform is a method of changing the civil justice system or limiting access to it. One method of doing this is by putting damage caps on the amount that a victim can recover in a lawsuit. New York currently has no cap on damages in malpractice lawsuits or other personal injury cases, although the Daily Health Report indicates that Governor Andrew M. Cuomo attempted to impose a $250,000 limit on medical malpractice lawsuits as part of efforts to restructure Medicaid. Currently, almost 30 states have such caps in place.

Those who argue for damage caps indicate that they are necessary to keep medical costs down. The reality, however, is that there is no evidence that damage caps lower the cost of insurance premiums or lower health care costs. In fact, according to WNYC.org, after Texas passed damage limits in 2003, health insurance premiums still went up 46 percent for individuals and 52 percent for families by 2010.

Most importantly, damage caps take away one measure of accountability for healthcare providers and leave innocent victims without full compensation for injuries they suffer at the hands of negligent doctors. If a patient suffers more than $250,000 in non-economic damages- which is certainly likely if a doctor causes egregious harm, or even injures or kills someone- the patient will be left uncompensated while the healthcare provider and his insurer walk away without every paying for the full consequences of a careless mistake.

The American Association for Justice reports that an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) study showed that approximately 98,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical mistakes. With so many injured, there may be a lot of patients who do not get the compensation they deserve.

Other Tort Reform Efforts

While medical malpractice is often a prime focus of tort reform, there are also other tort reform efforts in place as well.  For example, forced arbitration in contracts is one big issue. More and more companies are putting arbitration clauses in contracts mandating that customers and employees address their complaints in arbitration instead of in the courtroom.

A 2011 case called AT&T v. Mobility even gave corporations the right to effectively prevent class action lawsuits by requiring arbitration instead. PayPal is one company that has taken advantage of this new rule and included a clause in its contract that took effect on November 1. The clause requires that all disputes be handled in arbitration.

When a company commits a small wrong against many, class actions are often the only way to take action in a manner that is economically feasible and worthwhile as far as the time investment. Without the ability to form class actions and go to court, companies are essentially immune from being held responsible for small injustices.

The Efforts of Take Justice Back

Take Justice Back aims to educate the public on both the myths and misconceptions about tort reform. Take Justice back will also be sharing personal stories from plaintiffs who have been denied justice as a result of tort reform efforts. On their website, they also offer important news on the issue of tort reform and limitations that big corporations are attempting to impose on the rights of public.

Their grass roots efforts are an important step in telling the public the real truth about tort reform and in helping the public to fight against the large corporations and special interests who want to avoid legal accountability for their actions.

If you’ve been injured in Buffalo or the surrounding area, contact the Law Offices of James Morris today for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 800-477-9044.

Additional Resources

Valuing Your Case, Personal Injury Law Blog, August 7, 2012

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