Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018 at 8:28 am
At the time I’m writing this, I’ve been in practice for over 13 years, and I’ve filed thousands of personal injury lawsuits in Ohio and Kentucky for everything from car accidents and slip-and-falls to products liability and boating accidents. I’m proud of what I do. I get a lot of injured people medical treatment that they’d never have gotten otherwise. I help widows keep their homes. I help hard working men and women get the money to pay back the debts they incur while they’re off work and recuperating from surgeries. But no matter whether I’m in Kentucky or Ohio, no matter who is across the desk from me at a consultation, there is one comment I hear more than any other: “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people.”
This comment never fails to amaze me. There isn’t a kind of person that sues people. Personal injury lawyers don’t get repeat customers. On the rare occasion that I have seen the same person back in my office, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than two lawsuits. But more than that, “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” speaks to a kind of shame associated with the civil justice system. “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” means that nearly everyone who walks into my office thinks only bad people sue other people. We all know that doesn’t hold water. We’ve all driven past accidents where the ambulance is already removing a driver that was rear ended or t-boned; do we really believe the guy in the ambulance is a bad person for suing the one who put him there?
But really, the ridiculousness of “I’m not the kind of person that normally sues people” goes deeper than that. There are a lot of reasons that lawsuits are good things, so long as they are handled by good lawyers. That so many people don’t understand that speaks to a long history of disinformation about the civil justice system, including things like the myth of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee and a series of widely believed email forwards from the early 1990s. When you set aside falsehoods and think about it, there are many reasons you should file a personal injury lawsuit if someone else hurts you.
It’s Your Constitutional Right, and It’s Better Than Any Alternatives
Today, many politically minded people swear by the founding fathers. The original meaning behind the Constitution, both federal and state, is the cornerstone of Libertarian and most Conservative political theories, and in the Greater Cincinnati area where I practice, a large percentage of registered voters identify as Libertarian, Republican, or Conservative. On top of that, in this area it is typically Democratic elected representatives that are the staunchest defenders of the jury trial system. With that in mind, it is worth remembering that the Seventh Amendment in the Bill of Rights to our federal Constitution states:
“In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Section Seven of Kentucky’s Constitution goes further, saying:
“The ancient mode of trial by jury shall be held sacred, and the right thereof remain inviolate, subject to such modifications as may be authorized by this Constitution.”
Section Five of the Ohio Constitution states:
“The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate, except that, in civil cases, laws may be passed to authorize the rendering of a verdict by the concurrence of not less than three-fourths of the jury.”
There is a reason the founding fathers of every state, and of the federal government, made sure to enshrine the jury trial system: it provides for a peaceful resolution of conflicts while making sure the wrongdoer – the one that hurts, the one that takes, the one that breaks – is brought to justice. Prior to the jury trial system, it was common for people to fight duels, or for might to make right. Today, lawsuits are common and duels don’t exist. No one dies over defamation, or for being an inattentive driver. And no one should get away with it either. The beauty of the lawsuit is that it brings peaceful justice for men and women that have been wronged. Without it, we’d be back to the kind of 18th century justice our forefathers fought to prevent.
Everyone Is Insured (and If They Aren’t They’re Breaking the Law)
That was all well and good for the 1700s, you might say, but does it really apply today? Yes, and even more so than it did when the Constitution was written. Back then, a defendant losing a lawsuit might have to pay a princely sum of money; maybe enough to have to mortgage the family farm, or lose a business. Today, that fear doesn’t apply because almost everyone and everything is insured.
The most familiar form of insurance is auto insurance, which all Americans are required by law to get, but it isn’t the only kind. There is property insurance, general liability insurance, homeowner’s policies, farmowner’s policies, malpractice insurance, umbrella policies; you name it, and the insurance industry already thought of it thirty years ago. All those insurance policies not only mean that no one has to sell their house because they lost a lawsuit, but they also change the very nature of filing a lawsuit.
Let’s take automobile insurance as an example. An insurance policy is a contract. The insurance company says they will cover a driver for a specific amount of money if he or she causes an accident, and in exchange they want a certain amount each month as a premium. Let’s say that driver pays the premiums, and a few months down the line, rear ends you while you’re driving your car. You’re taken away by ambulance, and later file a lawsuit to cover your medical bills and the wages you missed while being off work.
When you file that lawsuit, you aren’t saying you want the other driver to pay you. You’re saying you want the insurance company to honor its contract. The money doesn’t come from the other driver’s pocket. It comes from the insurance company. The insurance company took the premiums, and they are supposed to pay for the damages. The lawsuit only happens if they don’t honor their contractual obligations. Feeling guilty for forcing an automobile insurance company to honor its contractual obligations makes no more sense that feeling guiling for forcing your health insurance company to pay for medical bills.
Lawsuits Help Your Doctor and Health Insurance Company Get Paid, Too
It’s worth bringing up another common myth about lawsuits: the money doesn’t really all go to the injured person. Yes, they take some home and yes, the attorney gets paid. But most people don’t realize that doctors often receive money as a result of a successful Workers’ Compensation lawsuit by an injured person against an insurance company. Also, every successful lawsuit against an automobile insurance company like Statefarm means a health insurance company like Humana gets reimbursed for the bills they paid. The logic is simple: one person or company caused the harm, and that person or company should pay for the harm. A doctor should not bear the burden of medical bills that cannot be paid, any more than the injured man or woman should bear the burden of being unable to put food on the table while they recover from surgery. A lawsuit against someone that is liable for negligence helps many people, not just the person hurt by the negligence.
Lawsuits Make Everyone Safer
We’ve all seen warnings that you can’t believe had to be printed, like a ridiculous commercial that tells you not try some obviously stupid act at home. It’s all the lawsuits, people think, that made that dumb warning appear. This is a part of the myth of the lawsuit too – do a little research and you’ll usually find that no one ever tried to sue over whatever dumb warning you saw. Generally, they are a part of an overabundance of caution on the part of companies that never bothered to ask a lawyer if they could be sued in the first place.
But some warnings do appear because of lawsuits. Like the warning that cigarettes can cause cancer, or that taking too much Tylenol can be fatal. Lawsuits also brought us the fire escape, the seatbelt, and the safety stop on saw blades. When used properly, the lawsuit is a force for good and drives the creation of new technology and new processes that make all Americans safer for decades to come.
It isn’t that there aren’t bad lawsuits. There are. Sometimes unhappy people file lawsuits on their own without a lawyer, which is generally a recipe for disaster. Sometimes bad lawyers with bad goals file bad lawsuits. But those lawsuits are the rare headline grabbers that cast a shadow on the good lawsuits, good lawyers, and good people who have been hurt through no fault of their own. If you have been hurt, and know someone else is at fault, don’t let the myth of the bad lawsuit cause you to deny yourself your right of recovery. If you’re a good person, get a good lawyer and get the justice you deserve.
If you have any other questions about Personal Injury or Workers’ Compensation lawsuits, please call our Fort Mitchell, Kentucky office at 859-371-5997 or our West Chester, Ohio office at 513-351-5997. We have helped over 3,000 clients and help a new, deserving person every day. We’re Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to help you!