The Scoop on Personal Lawsuit Trends – Adding Fuel to the Fire?

Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s blog on the “hot” topic of the pro’s and con’s of tort reform as seen through the eyes of lawyers, we’ve unearthed another interesting article which might be seen as adding fuel to the fire, but which, nevertheless, posits intriguing contra points.    Citing sources like the U.S. Census Bureau; National Manufacturing Week; stats from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the AMA, the American Association for Justice picks off many dyed-in-the-wool legendary “truisms” that make the water cooler rounds.

Some industries have more of these water coolers than others, per the AAJ.    In particular, we read that: “[d]rug, oil, and insurance companies have spent millions of dollars to generate myths about how lawsuits are out of control and responsible for all of America’s ills.” And the AAJ is prepared to “debunk these myths”.

For instance:    Lawsuits hurt small businesses. Negative, says the AAJ.  The author quotes the National Association of Manufacturers as noting “lawsuit abuse” is way at the very bottom of concerns for manufacturing firms.

Additionally, numerous surveys have shown that entrepreneurs in this size category have so many other legitimate concerns that “costs and frequency of lawsuits / threatened suits” ranks 65th on such a list.

Here’s another:   Lawyers charge so much per hour that victims are left with paltry sums.  Not so, we read. “For over 200 years the contingency fee system has provided Americans who must go to court with a degree of access to justice that is unheard of in most other countries,” the article notes.   Insurance rates will go through the roof because of so many lawsuits.  According to the AAJ, your insurance company is making huge profits its priority.  “Their profits continue to rise,”  we read, “and unfortunately, your premiums are following suit.”

Insurance companies have been known to say that caps would remedy the situation. However, they have also admitted that such caps on awards would not lower premiums.  “We have not promised price reductions with tort reform,” said a spokesperson for the American Insurance Association.   And what about the idea that health care costs are continuing to rise, and that physicians simply can’t afford to practice anymore, due to litigation?

It’s true that healthcare costs are skyrocketing, we read, but it has nothing to do with malpractice suits.  According to the AMA, only 2% of overall healthcare spending was attributable to such suits.

So what’s pushing the cost ever upwards?  Try the 40% increase in doctors since 1990 versus only an 18% general U.S. population increase.   The AAJ piece also makes the case that the number of tort or personal injury cases has actually been diminishing.

Quoting the National Center for State Courts, it states that tort cases declined by 25% in recent years.  And in the nationals largest 75 counties—where, if lawsuits were increasing, you might expect a sizable chunk of personal lawsuits to have been filed—“the number of tort trials decreased 31.8 percent between 1992 and 2001.”



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