Last week I wrote about how tort reform is preventing victims receiving justice and fair compensation, and also how companies, such as GM, are getting away with shirking their responsibilities toward consumers. This week, I’d like to continue by looking at both sides of the tort reform argument.
What is Tort Reform?
Tort reform has already capped the amount of non-economic compensation awarded to victims (plaintiffs) filing civil suits. Civil lawsuits may award the plaintiff damages for economic costs such as lost wages and medical bills, compensatory damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress, and also punitive damages. The latter is, as the name suggests, designed to deter defendants (companies, healthcare professionals, etc.) from engaging in further careless practices.
Those in favor of tort reform claim that it means lower insurance premiums, and in particular, lower medical costs for consumers. Reformists claim that because medical malpractice suits, for example, tend to involve very high awards, doctors’ insurance premiums are high, so the cost has to be factored into their fees, ultimately increasing costs all the way down the line. Capping, they say, results in lower health care costs for everyone.
Another argument for tort reform is that there is a growing tendency for doctors to base their patient care not on what might be best for the patient but what is least likely to result in a lawsuit, should things go wrong; for example, recommending unnecessary caesareans in order to reduce liability for unforeseen birth complications.
There is concern for shortages of doctors in certain areas of practice, particularly in the field of obstetrics, simply because of high malpractice insurance premiums.
Those against tort reform point out that capping compensation awards actually goes against what is laid out in state constitutions. In violating these constitutional rights, juries charged with hearing cases and determining appropriate damages, may actually be making inappropriate decisions.
Anti-reformists also argue that capping is unfair to plaintiffs, as indeed, the Weigel case demonstrates.
In addition, capping has meant that companies such as GM have been able to carry on, undeterred. It should be mentioned, however, that although the automobile manufacturer has since recalled over two million vehicles, which are thought to have the same ignition defect, the company still continues to settle out of court because tort reform makes it prohibitively expensive for car accident lawyers to take cases to litigation.
Finally, it could be argued that the fear of lawsuits is something which helps to keep businesses and medics behaving responsibly – essentially, by lessening that fear with tort reform, the temptation to cut corners and be less responsible increases greatly.
If you have been injured in an accident in New York City, you may wish to speak to New York City personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. Our expert lawyers at Antin, Ehrlich, and Epstein LLP will determine the best course of action in order to get you the settlement you are entitled to. Contact us today on 212-221-5999 to schedule a free, no obligation, consultation.