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Lawsuits: Separating Fact from Fiction

Between 1985 and 2003, the number of lawsuits for personal injuries and medical malpractice tried in the federal courts dropped by 79%, and, in the largest state courts, the number dropped almost 32% between 1992 and 2001. Despite these statistics, it seems as if you hear nothing but complaints about the greed of clients and lawyers, and how an explosion in lawsuits is ruining the country. It is time to separate truth from fiction.

Fiction: The number of lawsuits is skyrocketing.

Fact: As stated above, the number of lawsuits (of nearly every kind and nearly every jurisdiction) is plummeting. Mandatory arbitration and laws hostile to plaintiffs account for most of this drop.

Fiction: The costs of lawsuits are driving companies and doctors out of business.

Fact: Malpractice costs are less than 2% of the total cost of health care, and on their list of worries small business owners rate as number 65 concerns over the cost of lawsuits, according to a recent survey.

Fiction: Lawsuits are driving up your insurance rates.

Fact: Insurance company profits are driving up your insurance rates. Insurers make record profits, even as the number of suits plummets, yet your rates do not go down.

Fiction: The costs of lawsuits are a “tax” on all Americans.

Fact: The “studies” that support this statement are funded by big oil, drug, tobacco, and insurance companies, the every entities that benefit from a reduction in lawsuits. There is no factual or scientific basis for this claim, or even a reasonable explanation of how making a wrongdoer pay for his wrongs qualifies as a “tax” on anyone.

People complaining about lawsuits do so because they have a financial or political interest in the issue. Insurance companies do not make money by paying claims. Large corporations want the harm they cause to go uncompensated. Politicians find it easier to blame the victim than to address the underlying problems. The only people harmed by the reduction in lawsuits are those victimized by intentional or negligent acts who are being denied any recourse.

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