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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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