Tort reform has been promoted as the silver bullet that will fix the legal system by those who have a vested interest in seeing lawsuits decrease and awards capped. In reality, tort reform is much more complicated since it represents an abridgment of some people’s legal rights. Here is some more information about tort reform so you can understand some of what is at play.
What Is Tort Reform?
According to Emroch and Kilduff, a tort is defined as a wrongful act or an infringement of a right leading to civil legal liability. Tort reform limits the potential damages a future victim can recover under a prior law. Most of the tort reform proposals involve capping possible damages. For example, some states who have implemented tort reform have outright limits on compensatory damages for some types of cases. Some who advocate tort reform also have tried to cap punitive damages in some cases.
Who Benefits From Tort Reform
According to Medical Economics, physicians are one of the key beneficiaries of tort reform, and they have been aggressive in pushing for it over the years. Doctors have a vested interest in limiting their potential liability for malpractice as it will lower their insurance premiums and help their bottom line. Other industries that benefit include hospitals and nursing homes. Product manufacturers will also benefit from tort reform as the amount of damages that consumers may recover for defective products is slashed. Attorneys have vigorously lobbied against tort reform as it limits the rights of their potential clients to recover for their injuries and damages.
Has Tort Reform Worked?
This all depends on what your definition of “working” is. In states that have adopted damages caps in medical malpractice cases, it has resulted in difficulty for certain plaintiffs to find legal representation in their cases. Attorneys will be less likely to take cases if they are less lucrative because they are businesspersons just like everyone else. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, thirty-three states have adopted some form of damage caps in medical malpractice cases and it has limited the recoveries of plaintiffs. Tort reform has decreased the number of lawsuits, but the cost of this comes at the expense of the legal rights of someone who has been injured by the negligence of another.
We are now several decades into tort reform and the effects are now becoming apparent. Those who live in states with tort reform laws can expect to see less of a recovery for their injuries.
Author Harper Harmon is a freelance writer and blogger who focuses on business, health and other various topics. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from UCLA and currently resides in Santa Cruz with her dog, Sassy.