It is our expectation that the U.S. legal system is in place to rectify acts of injustice. Whether that injustice takes the form of an act of negligence on the job or in a hospital, the U.S. civil justice system will protect its citizens. But recent discoveries about the effects of tort reform would appear to prove otherwise. Expository reports by Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, and vaunted Sundance documentary “Hot Coffee” express the voices of those concerned about what the future holds under these so-called reforms. Where reformers once championed damage caps in tort lawsuits as the solution to high medical costs and exorbitant insurance premiums, new evidence proves that no significant savings have been made. Furthermore, in states like Texas, where caps were implemented in 2003, affordable medical insurance has become less available as medical spending continues to increase.
The only beneficiaries of tort reform are liability insurance companies and physicians. The civil justice system is meant to punish the wrongdoer and send a clear warning about the unacceptability of negligent injury or death to unsuspecting citizens through the awarding of punitive damages. Reformers believed that putting these damage caps and mandatory arbitration clauses in place would stymie the swell of frivolous lawsuits, exemplified by the suit that 79-year-old Stella Liebeck brought against McDonald’s for their dangerously hot coffee. But what state-specific tort reforms have done, instead of eliminating frivolous cases, is to strip their citizens of a system to turn to when they are injured and at their most vulnerable.
Victims who have suffered severe injuries, including those that prevent them from returning to work after the duration of their medical leave or to an indefinite amount, rely on the possible settlements they can reach to keep them from neglecting their injuries or falling into debt. Plaintiffs often wait months and even years to see their awarded damages, while attorney fees and other court costs pile up. For some, waiting for the maximum awarded settlement is not possible for their health or finances. If insurance companies use their buying power as leverage to wait out a plaintiff before tort reform, they are in an even better position to negotiate a lower settlement with the perception that the civil justice system is on their side.
It is at this time that a lawsuit loan is most necessary and useful. First, the financial burdens of plaintiffs are immediately alleviated by the lawsuit loan that can be applied towards medical bills, outstanding payments, and other necessary expenses that would otherwise lead a plaintiff into foreclosure or bankruptcy. Secondly, by sending a clear message to defendants that plaintiffs, their legal team, and their lawsuit loan company are all committed to winning the case, victims of negligence will have a better chance of achieving the maximum settlement they deserve.
Steven Medvin is the Executive Director of SMP Advance Funding, LLC, which provides lawsuit funding to individuals who need a lawsuit loan for pending lawsuits. For more information please visit www.smpadvance.com.