Monday, March 8, 2010

Let's Get Rid Of All Personal Injury Lawsuits And See What Happens

With apologies to Jonathan Swift's classic "A Modest Proposal,"** the thought occurred to me: what if we simply banned personal injury lawsuits? After all, according to many pundits, "think tanks," and politicians, aren't they simply a drain on our national economy? According to The Chamber Of Commerce, they stifle innovation and product development, drive up the cost of goods and services, and insurance.

Similarly, medical malpractice lawsuits are claimed to cause physicians to practice "defensive medicine," causing a drain on our health care system, and increasing health care costs and insurance. According to the medical industry, this lawsuit "crisis" has spawned the need to cap or limit victims' recovery even in cases of preventable and serious malpractice injuries.

If things are THIS bad, and one of the root causes is our "litigation culture," "runaway juries," and our "sue happy" society, maybe we should consider doing something radical: an outright ban on all personal injury lawsuits. Maybe not a permanent ban, but a reasonable "moratorium" for a set number of years. Freed of this lawsuit millstone on our national economy, businesses will thrive, unencumbered by pesky and expensive lawsuits. Doctors and hospitals will be freed from the shackles of over the shoulder second guessing by personal injury lawyers seeking to cash in on patient care and and routine operations gone horribly wrong.

This moratorium, coupled with reliance on free markets and a ban on nitpicking and costly governmental regulation, will be good economically for everybody. Total freedom of the marketplace, from manufactured products to medicine to the financial services industry, where each person is free to enter into any transaction or service based upon unadalterated trust.

That large foreign object left inside you during routine surgery? Sorry, but doctors and hospitals need relief from the burdensome litigation costs associated with your injury, so not being able to sue them will be good for you--and all of us--in the long run. Your Toyota suddenly accelerated and caused a crash that killed a family member or an innocent bystander? Well, Toyota needs to compete in a competitive and underperforming economy, and if they get sued too many times, they might be forced to leave Texas and other states where they have factories, and those jobs are too important to sacrifice at this time.

This moratorium will only apply to personal injury lawsuits. Businesses need to maintain the right to have unfettered access to the courts to enforce contracts and valuable business deals, which we all know are vital to their bottom lines and their continued viability. Of course, the benefits of their full access to courts and full recovery of their business damages will be passed on to all of us in the form of reduced prices and more jobs.

Our need for a robust and healthy economy is just too important at this time in our history to be bogged down with money draining personal injury lawsuits and shopworn notions of "accountability." therefore, if you've been maimed or lost a loved one due to someone's carelessness, I'm sure you understand the need to sacrifice your interest in lawsuits for the good of the whole. Consider it your patriotic duty as an American, similar to the personal sacrifices we made during World War II.

All you injured folks, and the scores of personal injury attorneys who bring these lawsuits, must realize that the benefits of suing occasional wrongdoers are outweighed by the collective harm and expense due to all these lawsuits. So it is necessary to put your rights on hold.

A national lawsuit "timeout"--what's unreasonable about that? What is being proposed right now--a national movement towards limiting malpractice victims' recovery, is a necessary first step towards this goal, but will do nothing to cure the annoying problem of continued lawsuits against doctors and hospitals.

Therefore, when you show up at town hall meetings and insist on legal reforms limiting peoples' rights, consider asking your Congressional representative to get a spine and stop the lame "watering down" of their rights. Tell him or her that you want the ultimate solution to the vexing lawsuit problem and cut lawsuits out of the mix altogether. Tell them that you are a TRUE tort reformer, ready and willing to forego your rights as a patriotic, "get government out of my life for once and for all" American.

So let's have a national ban on personal injury lawsuits for, say, five short years or so and let's see what happens.

Sometimes the quickest way to usher out a movement--in this case, "tort reform"--is to hasten its coming. After all, every "movement" or "reform" eventually hits home, and mutates from an abstract proposition to something personal. Like removing the wrong breast beacuse the pathology slide was misread or mixed up with another patient. Or a defective car or bus that careens out of control and kills a bunch of people. But, hey, sacrifices must be made for the good of everyone. If you are a true believer, I'm sure you'll be first in line to give up your rights.

Which brings me to the real world definiton of a "frivolous lawsuit:" one other than mine. Tort reform sounds good from a distance until it is applied to you, and then it's not so appealing.

** For the real meaning of Swift's time honored "A Modest Proposal," click here

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