A “tort” is an action that commits a civil wrong. Let’s say a business knowingly introduces a product to their customers which can cause them harm. The people who are harmed by this product can file a tort to have this business pay for their actual losses and other monetary damages the court feels are necessary or needed to prevent similar actions from happening again.
Tort reform attempts to create a fairer process to hear these complaints. Instead of allowing one side or the other to have an advantage when a tort is filed, the tort reform pros and cons to consider here are intended to give each party equal standing before the court.
What Are the Pros of Tort Reform?
1. It reduces the overall legal cost for both parties.
Lawsuits happen on a daily basis because one party feels wronged by the other. Tort laws often allow legal professionals to collect large fees for their services that may exceed the amount an injured party may receive. By simplifying the system, the goal is to reduce these legal costs so awards can provide justice instead of seem like an ongoing punishment.
2. It reduces the personal feelings people may have for a case.
Without tort reform, a jury may award massive damages to someone simply because they wish to punish the corporation or individual they see at fault. This even occurs in cases that are deemed to be frivolous. By eliminating the component of vengeance, more of the frivolous cases can be dismissed so a greater focus can be placed on the instances of actual civil wrong.
3. It stops the “ambulance chasing” version of legal help.
Anyone who has been injured in an accident when another party has been at fault has encountered this form of legal help. Of course everyone deserve to earn a living, but if damages are limited to actual costs and punitive damages are capped, then there will be less of a scramble to sue someone for the largest amount possible in the hopes of being awarded a beneficial verdict.
4. It stops people from worrying about what might happen for long periods of time.
Tort reform often includes some form of a statute of limitations. This would prevent someone from suing for a civil wrong after a certain amount of time has elapsed. If there is an indefinite period of time allowed to file a tort, then every business would need to budget for a certain percentage of costs each year to handle this issue – and that percentage would need to increase every year.
What Are the Cons of Tort Reform?
1. Victims typically have a greater difficulty to prove their case.
Tort reform often places restrictions on the types of civil wrongdoing that qualify for a potential lawsuit. This means some victims may suffer a loss, yet have no way to recover that loss while the other party gets to profit. Sure – they can go public with their information and leave negative reviews in public forums, but that still doesn’t recover a monetary loss.
2. Monetary awards may be limited.
This issue has been seen in medical tort reform over the past decade. With limits placed on the amount of monetary damages that can be awarded to a victim, the civil wrongdoing might not be completely covered because of the financial cap involve. This essentially allows those in the wrong to get away with what they’ve done because they can “budget” for their worst case scenario and move on while their victim is left to figure out the mess.
3. It might have a reverse effect on the courts.
If tort reform protects certain organizations or individuals, then they might see this as an opportunity to counterclaim against victims who do leave negative feedback about them. Since the average individual isn’t protected by tort reform laws when restrictions are put in place, this may cause more cases to be heard and more damages to be paid out, but at the expense of the victim instead of the wrongdoer.
4. It could limit the chance for a victim to respond.
What if a head injury in an accident doesn’t show signs of neurological trauma for 5 years? If the statute of limitation for their case due to tort reform is just 3 years, then they would have no way to recover their medical costs from a civil wrong that was not their fault. In essence, this allows the wrongdoer to completely escape being held responsible for their actions.
The tort reform pros and cons considered here are just a few of the key points to consider when looking at this component of the justice system. The goal of a tort is to make sure victims can still maintain the highest quality of life possible while those who have turned them into victims are held responsible. Some say the current system shouldn’t be changed. Others say tort reform is absolutely necessary. After seeing these key points, how do you feel about tort reform?
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.