Trial lawyers are routinely demonized as “ambulance chasers” and “blood suckers” and we saw this type of attack on full display during the health care debate with baseless rhetoric about the need for tort reform and capping compensation for seriously injured victims (check out the CBO report which says tort reform would actually only reduce costs by 0.5 percent). The truth is, trial lawyers play an important role in keeping consumers safe and going after big corporations that neglect their safety responsibilities.
A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal talked about how trial lawyers provided support for over-worked and under-resourced federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A perfect example is the recent problems surrounding Toyota. If it’s revealed Toyota purposely misled the general public and government officials (which looks like a real possibility considering the internal documents brought to light) the Department of Transportation can levy a fine of only $16.4 million against the car company. That’s a drop in the bucker for the multi-billion dollar corporation. Toyota executives are definitely more worried about impending class action lawsuits that could potentially require the company to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to injured drivers and family members who lost a loved one in a major car wreck involving a Toyota that suddenly accelerated.
Another example was in the 1990s with the recall of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers. The actions taken by trial lawyers helped expedite the recall and government investigation in to why so many Ford Explorers were getting involved in rollover accidents. Need more proof? How about the revelations surrounding asbestos and mesothelioma cancer? Once again, the actions taken by trial lawyers helped cause railroad companies into finally and belatedly removing asbstos from the workplace, implementing new safety rules and taking measures to ensure railroad workers are warned about exposure to toxic asbestos.
The efforts of injury lawyers can even spur the creation of new laws and safety regulations. In a 2009 case, Wyeth v. Levine (a case involving the prescription drug Phenergan), the Supreme Court noted that state tort suits "can serve as a catalyst" for regulatory action. Does this change the public perception of trial injury attorneys? Not instantly-no. There will always be some people who think trial lawyers are terrible and capitalize on people’s suffering. Nevertheless, when these same people or their family members get seriously injured in a car accident, truck wreck, or prescription drug error, who do they call? A good injury lawyer; and we’re happy to represent them because that’s what we do – help injured victims by seeking justice in a court of law.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.