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What Is Tort Reform?
Everything You Need to Know

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Tort reform is a group of ideas designed to change the laws of the civil justice system. There are several different ways to approach this legal reform, but the overall goal is to make the system more efficient and reduce the amount of money paid out in damages, especially when the victim suffered minor consequences. 

As a personal injury attorney, I will tell you all that you need to know about tort reform and how it can impact civil cases.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • The advantages of tort reform are that it can make the civil justice system more efficient, and it can save money
  • Under state tort reform, the rules and the judicial process for filing a lawsuit are changed
  • There are two types of tort reform, state and federal

What is a Tort?

A lawyer signing paperworkA tort is a civil wrong involving an injury, such as physical or mental harm or money. This can happen when someone is careless or purposely hurts someone else.

Some common torts are negligence, assault, false imprisonment, and medical malpractice lawsuits [1].

In tort litigation, the party that caused harm must compensate the victim enough to return them to their original quality of life.

What is Tort Reform?

Tort reform refers to the government making it harder for people to sue. This happens in the civil justice system. It makes it harder for people to get money if they win a lawsuit. The tort reform was enacted because the government thought there were too many lawsuits, making doctors’ insurance more expensive [2].

Tort reform efforts have been a highly contested issue in the U.S. civil justice system since its introduction. Recently, tort reforms have allowed for time constraints on how long a victim has to file claims and recover for medical malpractice or medical negligence.

Disadvantages of Tort Reforms

A lawyer holding a big law book

Here’s what tort reformers are aiming to achieve to prevent a successful lawsuit.

  1. It can make it harder for injured people to get justice, especially in medical negligence or medical malpractice cases.
  2. It can make it harder for people to hold businesses and health care providers accountable. 
  3. It can make it harder for people to get compensated for their pain and suffering from medical malpractice. 
  4. It can make it harder for people to access the courts. 

“The American justice system is unique because it allows individuals to court and seeks redress for their injury. Americans have the fundamental right to a jury trial… Having a trial by jury, if you are harmed, is a constitutional right.”
Charles “Tony” Piccuta, Second Generation Attorney

 

2 Types of Tort Reform

A person looking at an old brown book

There are two types of tort reform, state and federal. Let us talk about each in detail.

1. State Tort Reform

Most states have enacted laws to protect healthcare providers. However, some states have also passed laws to protect manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, asbestos, or other products. 

Tort reform measures vary from state to state, but I have noticed that they usually have one or more of the following features:

  • The elimination of joint and several liabilities means that one party can’t be held responsible for the actual damages caused by a group of people.
  • Noneconomic damages, also known as compensatory damages, are a form of compensation awarded for injuries such as pain and suffering from medical malpractice, disfigurement, medical negligence, and humiliation that is not linked to the economic loss. 
  • Non-economic damages are frequently restricted by law because they are subjective.
  • Caps on punitive damages awards mean that the amount an injured person can be awarded for punitive damages is limited. Due to tort reform advocates, the government stated that the compensation payouts might be $500,000 or five times the number of compensatory damages, whichever is larger.
  • The plaintiff in a personal injury case may be able to recover damages even if they have received benefits from “collateral sources” such as workers’ compensation or health insurance.
  • The contingency fee basis for legal services is restricted.
  • A statute of limitations.

2. Federal Tort Reform

Under federal tort reform, the rules to file lawsuits are not changed. However, the amount of money that you can recover for your injuries is limited. 

This means that if you are seriously injured, you may not be able to get the cash you need to pay for your medical expenses or lost wages.

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FAQs

What is an example of tort reform?

An example of tort reform is changing the rules governing how the victim can present evidence in a civil trial. This might prevent plaintiffs from winning their case or to recover damages.

Why are tort reforms good?

Tort reforms can be good because they can make it more difficult for frivolous lawsuits to succeed. They can also help to reduce the amount of money that plaintiffs can recover, which can help to keep insurance premiums down.

How Does Tort Reform Affect You?

Tort reform can affect you when someone else’s negligence injures you and the amount of money you can recover for your injuries may be limited. Additionally, the rules governing how a personal injury attorney can present your case in court may be changed, making winning more difficult.

It is important to speak with an experienced legal counsel to understand how to seek compensation and how tort reform may affect you and your personal injury lawsuits. Feel free to contact Schmidt & Clark’s personal injury lawyers, who are specialed in personal injury cases, and schedule a free consultation session.


References:

  1. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/tort
  2. https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/what-is-tort-reform-35441

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