Civil Jury Trials Under Attack
In response to a dramatic rise in tort litigation in the early 1980s, the latter part of the decade saw the formation of a multitude of political groups aimed at reversing this trend. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (shared below) confirms that these long-running attacks on civil jury trials have had their intended effect; the number of injured victims filing lawsuits has decreased drastically over the past quarter-century.
Despite continued widespread public opinion that there are too many lawsuits in America, the Wall Street Journal reports that tort lawsuits now represent less than 5% of all civil cases, down from 20% just twenty years earlier. If public opinion on tort litigation ever matched reality, it certainly doesn’t anymore. But even if it were to change, there remain significant barriers to filing lawsuits that severely hurt victims’ ability to recover.
Caps on the amount of damages recoverable in medical-malpractice cases, coupled with the increasing costs for medical reports and expert testimony, can make it difficult to pursue even the best cases in a cost-effective manner. As many tort claims cap target non-economic damages specifically, these increasing costs have been particularly harmful to retirees, stay-at-home parents, and other unemployed persons whose inability to recover economic damages like lost wages make their cases particularly uneconomical.
Private health insurance companies, along with Medicare and Medicaid, will attempt to recover any damages awarded for medical expenses, increasing the amount necessary for victims to actually receive any compensation for their injuries. Indeed, at Will Ferguson & Associates, we have seen that treating doctors are often unwilling to testify on behalf of their patients, and many hospitals will even discourage their doctors from doing so.
As smaller value lawsuits have become increasingly difficult to pursue, insurance companies have tried to take advantage by offering unfairly low settlements or refusing to settle at all, knowing that victims will be left with little recourse.
The Wall Street Journal’s reporting can only lead to one conclusion: victims of tortious conduct are getting a raw deal in America, and their rights to civil jury trials are slipping away. Will Ferguson & Associates offers free consultations to help you determine the best course of action in these trying times for victims of wrongdoing.