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Tort Reform

"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." - Thomas Jefferson

Tort "reform" is used to describe a group of proposals that seek to limit litigation and compensation for injuries to a person or damages to his or her property caused by someone else's wrongdoing. When a person suffers damages as the result of another person's intentional or negligent conduct, the law allows the victim to recover his damages by holding the wrongdoer accountable for his actions. Thus, tort reform can affect cases arising out of everything from medical malpractice claims to car accidents to major aviation disasters.

Tort "reformers" seek to change the law so that wrongdoers – often big corporations or wealthy citizens with powerful lobbies – can avoid personal responsibility when they harm others. Often, tort "reformers" seek to limit the amount an individual can be compensated after suffering an injury. But so-called reform comes in many other forms, such as taking disputes out of the court system so that an injured person can never take his case before a jury, or making it more difficult or more costly for victims to file legitimate lawsuits. Tort reform advocates often use exaggerated estimates of the number of cases and costs of lawsuits. These advocates contend that policies making it more difficult to get into court or recover after being injured would be beneficial for our legal system. This is simply not true.

By making it more difficult for an injured party to sue or recover after being injured, these policies would benefit negligent corporations and big insurance companies. When a company or person is negligent, tort law not only seeks to make the victim whole, but also to give the negligent party to incentives change its unsafe behavior. Many policies that tort reform advocates support could result in victims not being fully compensated and negligent parties not being fully encouraged to change their negligent practices.

Discredited by the Facts

The greatest single myth about tort "reform" is that it is good for consumers and good for America. The truth is, the policies advocated by tort reformers boost profits for insurance companies and giant corporations at great cost to ordinary Americans.

Authorities ranging from professors at Harvard University to contributors to the Wall Street Journal recognize that current tort reform proposals incorrectly attribute increased healthcare costs to medical malpractice claims and contend that the reform movement is ultimately misguided.

Again and again, studies have found that the supposed "crisis" in liability insurance is caused not by the cost of compensating people who have been hurt at the hands of another, but by poor management and investment decisions by the insurance industry itself. Some of those studies are linked below. This non-crisis should not be "solved" on the backs of the very people the civil justice system was designed to help in their hour of greatest need.

Everyone benefits from the cases brought by those who have been injured.

Click here to read about common tort reform myths

Recent Tort Reform News

Below are links to recent news about Tort Reform cases and studies:

Harvard Study Debunks the Myth of Frivolous Lawsuits

"A new study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Brigham and Women's Hospital challenges the view that frivolous litigation is rampant and expensive…. In fact, the number of meritorious claims that did not get paid was actually larger than the group of meritless claims that were paid."

The Great Medical Malpractice Hoax: NPDB Data Continue to Show Medical Liability System Produces Rational Outcomes

An extensive study by Public Citizen found that Medical Malpractice Payments Are Actually Declining, Payments Correspond to Severity of Injury, Patient Safety Is the Real Crisis, and Improving Patient Safety Will Save Lives.

Stability, not Crisis: Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes in Texas

According to a joint study by the University of Texas, University of Illinois, and Columbia University, "We find no evidence of the medical malpractice crisis that produced headlines over the last several years and led to legal reform in Texas and other states. The rapid changes in insurance premiums that sparked the crisis appear to reflect insurance market dynamics, largely disconnected from claim outcomes." The number of large claims actually decreased in relation to the amount of health care provided between 1991 and 2003.

Click here to read more tort reform news

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