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insurance companies denying claims, Chicago personal injury lawyerInsurance companies spend billions of advertising dollars on television ads, radio commercials, and print advertising to convince you that they are trustworthy, that they will be there when you need them. Unfortunately, their marketing tactics are nothing short of deceptive; rather than honor your injury or wrongful death claim, they will do anything and everything they can to wear you down and get you to settle for less than fair compensation. If they can, they will blame you and completely deny your claim.

But their actions go well beyond the dodgy practices of denying claims and getting victims to settle for less; these same insurance companies are also one of the key players behind movements known as “tort reform” – laws and legislation that violate the 7th amendment rights of citizens by restricting their right to a jury trial for their injuries or losses.

Who Really Benefits from Tort Reform?

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tort reform, Illinois personal injury attorneysFor decades, Americans have been told that the sky is falling, that the economy is on the verge of crashing because of their frivolous claims against large corporations. But, like most carefully crafted lies, these claims are nothing more than a ploy to benefit those who wish to escape accountability. Do not be fooled; search, instead, for the truth.

Everything to Gain and Everything to Lose

Before the 1970s, large corporations were the subject of personal injury lawsuits for negligent, deceptive, and even outright illegal practices. Many were also forced to pay punitive damages, which were meant to deter other companies from committing similar acts. These lawsuits, and the forced accountability they brought with them, severely damaged the bottom line of these corporations. What they really needed was a loophole, a way to avoid large payouts and increase their bottom line.

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punitive damages, Chicago personal injury attorneysPunitive damages, which are awarded to plaintiffs when a defendant has acted willfully, maliciously, or fraudulently negligent, are intended to deter similar future acts. Tort reformers and the media often attack this form of compensation, however, claiming it is frivolously and excessively awarded without cause. Yet an investigation of the evidence suggests quite the contrary.

Punitive Damages Rarely Awarded

Although tort reform supporters, lawmakers, and corporations would like the public to believe that punitive damages are increasing in both award amount and frequency, the very opposite is true. In fact, when examining the data from various sources, including the U.S. Department of Justice, it would appear that punitive damages have actually decreased in frequency and inflation-adjustment amount. Moreover, the actual percentage of cases for which punitive damages are awarded has, for the most part, remained stable.

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tort reform report, common claims, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyWhen it comes to the problems in our healthcare system today—be it the increase in medical malpractice liability coverage costs for physicians, or the deterioration of the system itself—the blame often falls to “runaway juries,” outrageous award amounts for non-economic damages, and an overall increase in both the frequency and size of medical malpractice claim awards. To examine these theories, Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) commissioned a report in 2005. The information uncovered might surprise you.

Frequency of Civil Litigation Case Filings Substantially Lower

One of the main justifications in the argument for tort reform, as used by its supporters, is that malpractice lawsuits against physicians are more frequent today than they were several years ago. And, as a result, physicians are facing substantial increases in their liability insurance premiums. While the latter certainly proves to be true, the ISBA report indicates that Illinois doctors are actually being sued less.

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tort reform supporters, Chicago personal injury lawyersIn Illinois, and all across the country, people are being told that our justice system is broken and that patients are frivolously suing (and winning against) innocent doctors, nurses, and hospitals. But, like many of the stories spun by tort reformers, such claims are untrue. If anything, evidence shows that not only is our system not “broken,” only a small percentage of injured patients ever actually pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Statistics Hidden and Ignored by Tort Reform Supporters

According to recent information, anywhere from 210,000 and 440,000 patients walk into a hospital in search of care and never walk out. Determined by the Journal of Patient Safety, this information places medical errors third on the list of leading causes of death in America, just behind heart disease and cancer. Even more suffer a nonfatal injury that somehow alters their way of life—as many as 600,000 annually, according to Harvard researchers. And yet there are only about 85,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year.

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tort-reformFiction can provide hours of entertainment, give us a momentary escape from reality, and encourage us to tap into our creative, youthful self. But there is a time and a place for such fanciful notions, and it is not in the legal arena. So why do tort reform supporters use extravagant, exaggerated, and sometimes even completely fabricated stories when discussing the legal system today? Bottom line: because those stories support their message.

Behind the Curtain of Tort Reform

Tort reform is backed by some pretty powerful players, such as insurance companies, manufacturers of dangerous or defective products or chemicals, and other major corporations, who use their funds to sway people in their direction. Driven by the desire to protect their assets and increase their bottom line, they want to make it nearly impossible for anyone they kill or injure along the way to receive compensation. To achieve those goals, they literally purchase the help of the keynote speakers—government officials, defense attorneys, the media, and other influencers.

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tort reform, Chicago medical malpractice attorneyTort reform laws put limits on the amount of compensation a victim of medical malpractice can receive. Tort reform does not favor victims; rather it favors negligent hospitals, doctors, and companies. The victims of medical malpractice should be able to get fair compensation as determined by a jury of peers, not what lawmakers, insurers and companies believe victims should receive.

Recently medical malpractice victims’ family members testified before Illinois lawmakers about how their lives had changed because of mistakes made by doctors and other medical professionals. The family members talked about how an arbitrary cap on awards for victims and their families limit and impact their lives.

Those who testified before Illinois legislators ranged from widows of Illinois State Troopers to mothers speaking for their children to the victims of medical malpractice who relived their tragedy. Those who spoke before the lawmakers took a stand because they have fought for themselves or someone they cared about for the justice they deserve. The compensation some received from their medical malpractice suits will take care of their injured family members’ medical and living expenses.

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