Chances are if you played the Match Game or simply heard the word “frivolous,” one of the first things that would come to mind is “lawsuits.” This is exactly what corporations want you to think. Through years of carefully calculated attacks and spending of millions upon millions of dollars, corporate powers with interests in limiting their liability and chances of having to pay people they’ve harmed have succeeded in perpetuating the myth of the frivolous lawsuit.
While powerful corporate entities, the insurance industry, anti-consumer lobbyists, and “tort reform” groups have wielded their power to ingrain this myth into the minds of Americans, it’s important to step back, look at the facts, and ask a few important questions. Why do so many Americans think there’s a problem with frivolous lawsuits? And what types of lawsuits are they referring to?
The video below provides some answers:
The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit
As mentioned in the video, tort reformers who invoke the term “frivolous lawsuits” refer to civil lawsuits, not criminal cases. Civil suits generally involve disputes between two parties, such as two people or a person and a corporation, and are often brought to court in order to hold someone (or some entity) accountable when they cause harm.
Personal injury lawsuits are civil lawsuits, and they can involve suits filed by victims against a corporation (such as in a product liability claim) or against another person (such as in a car accident case). Though a case may be filed against an individual (i.e. a negligent driver), it is often that those individual defendants are represented by their insurance companies.
These insurance companies and corporations have financial interests in shielding themselves against civil lawsuits, liability, and having to pay victims. In order to do so, they have spent huge amounts of money to generate the myth that there are too many lawsuits in America. But the facts show that claim is simply incorrect. Not only is there a body of law designed to rule out lawsuits which lack sufficient merit, statistics show civil suits in the U.S. have been declining for decades. In 1993, for example, 10 out of 1,000 Americans filed civil lawsuits. In 2005, less than 2 out of 1,000 brought civil claims in court.
Why You Should Care
While generating myths may seem like just another questionable tactic used by corporations, there is a reason you should care. The civil justice system is one of the most powerful platforms for justice in the U.S., and it provides everyone with a fair chance to hold others accountable for fault, negligence, and wrongdoing – even if they’re big and powerful corporate entities. Allowing corporations and lobbyists to degrade the system in their favor will only harm you, your community, and Americans at large.
Over the years, civil lawsuits have had major positive impacts not just on cases important to individuals and families, but also major issues that affect all Americans – from ending segregation and discontinuing the sales of dangerous pharmaceuticals to rooting out regulatory violations, dangerous conduct, and fraud against consumers and communities that may have never been exposed if not for people being able to exercise their rights and harness the power of the civil justice system. Here are a just a few specific examples:
- Defective toys – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued nearly 900 recalls on children’s toy products since 1974. Parents depend on the civil justice system to hold product manufacturers accountable when their children suffer preventable injuries, and to ensure toys on the market are safe for their kids.
- Defective cars – In the 1960s, civil suits were responsible for revealing that General Motors knew the placement of gas tanks on their cars could cause explosions and fires in car accidents, making them more likely to injure and kill people. Although fixing the issue would have cost just under $9 per car, GM calculated it would only cost under $3 per car to pay claims for 500 fatal accidents. The civil justice system ensured they were held accountable, prompted federal regulatory standards for fuel tanks in rear-end collisions, and continues to help improve auto safety across the board.
- Protecting communities – The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 was a catastrophe that caused over 10 million gallons of oil to pollute more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan coastline. Though the oil company did everything it could to escape liability, civil lawyers worked for 20 years to hold Exxon accountable and force them to clean up their mess.
To put things simply, the concept of “frivolous lawsuits” is a myth, and it is generated by powerful special interest groups who care more about their profits than they do people. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we know the power of the civil justice system when it comes to accountability, needed change, and the protection of victims and families who deserve justice and fair compensation. It’s why our attorneys have dedicated their professional careers to this area of law, and why we continue to fight for our clients when they face off against powerful defendants. We encourage you to share this video with your friends and families, and help spread the truth about what the civil justice system really means.
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. proudly serves residents throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and is available to discuss any questions you may have about a potential case and your rights in the civil justice system. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.