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(ThyBlackMan.com) Whether you’re an attorney, an accident victim or even a representative of an insurance company, the phrase tort reform creates lots of feelings.
Of course, tort reform can greatly impact the civil justice system and the ability of a victim to get full compensation for a personal injury. That makes it understandable that tort reform is the subject of significant debate and lots of opinions.
What is Tort Reform?
Tort reform is the sum total of laws that impact the rights of personal injury victims. Common law and statutory laws determine when a victim has a right to financial compensation based on being the victim of a personal injury tort. When new laws limit those rights, the new laws are a part of tort reform. Reform legislation changes legal rights in a way that may directly or indirectly make it harder for a victim to get compensation when they’re hurt because of the actions of another party.
Who Benefits from Tort Reform?
Any of the following parties may benefit from tort reform:
- Insurance companies
- Doctors, medical assistants and nurses
- Other health care companies
- Business owners
- Companies that manufacture dangerous products (product liability)
- Courts who have reduced caseloads and fewer trials
Pros and Cons of Tort Reform
Some people think tort reform is necessary and beneficial. Other people think it does an injustice to victims and to society. Here are the pros and cons of tort reform.
Pros of Tort Reform
- Lower costs of litigation
- Lower insurance costs
- Peace of mind for health care professionals and business owners as they go about their work
- Faster litigation and settlement of personal injury and malpractice lawsuits
- Fewer costs to taxpayers for the costs and time spent on jury trials
- A reduction in frivolous lawsuits
Cons of Tort Reform
- Victims and their families may be left without the compensation that they need and deserve; victims being left to pay their own expenses
- Discouragement of victims who are thinking about pursuing a claim
- Shielding insurance companies from liability that they should pay
- Not having a way to hold wrongdoers accountable for injuries and wrongful death
- No public pressure to make products safer and improve the way that we live life
- Bars to bringing valid lawsuits
Ultimately, tort reform makes it harder for victims to get fair compensation for their losses. In turn, the people who act negligently or manufacture dangerous goods have a reduced incentive to make their products safer.
What Are Some Examples of Tort Reform?
Here are some examples of tort reform:
Damage caps – A law may limit the amount that a victim may claim for non-economic damages like pain and suffering; some tort reform laws limit the total amount that a victim may receive in a case against a unit of government
Contributory negligence – There may be reductions or a complete bar to compensation when a victim is partially to blame for the accident
Medical malpractice certification – The victim may need to have a certification from a medical professional that they have a valid case for medical malpractice before they can even file the case
Immunity for Good Samaritans who offer help to the injured; immunity for first responders; changes in legal liability for negligence and intentional torts
Statute of limitations – The law may impose a very short timeline for the victim to pursue their case
Alternative dispute resolution – Tort reform may require the victim to participate in mediation and other alternative dispute resolution efforts in order to reduce the number of cases that go to trial
Court procedures and discovery – The court may impose rules that require mandatory disclosure and adherence to timelines. Effectively, these rules may function as tort reform because they may impact the rights and requirements of the victim to pursue fair compensation
Joint and several liability limitations – Tort reform may prohibit the victim from collecting the entire amount of the judgement from all parties until the amount is collected in full
Punitive damages limitations and caps – Changing standards or caps on punitive damages
How Can Tort Reform Impact Your Case?
Tort reform can impact your case by determining how much you can recover and how you must go about the claims process. Sometimes, tort reform impacts what you can recover. Examples of this kind of limitation are damage caps and limitations on what types of damages that you can receive. If there are damage caps that apply, you can claim the amount that’s appropriate in your case up to the maximum amount.
In other situations, tort reform changes the way that you pursue your case. You may need to begin your claim sooner to meet the statute of limitations. It may be necessary to find a medical expert to speak to the validity of your case. Other court rules may impose deadlines, discovery requirements or even a requirement to pursue mediation. It’s important to know what these limitations are because even one error may result in the dismissal of your case.
How Can an Attorney Help You With Tort Reform?
An attorney can help you with tort reform by helping you understand what you need to do to make the most of your case. They can help you determine if there are tort reform laws that apply to the case. If there are applicable laws, the personal injury lawyer can help you maximize the compensation that you receive for the case while being sure to follow procedures that can impact the case. Your personal injury attorney fights for all of your rights in light of how tort reform may impact the case.
Staff Writer; Tracy Cortez
Is a blogger for Adam S. Kutner, a personal injury law firm based in Las Vegas.