Tort law is the law of accidents, catastrophic injury, and untimely wrongful death. Tort law allows people to pursue compensation when they have been hurt by someone else’s negligence, creates accountability, and reduces the likelihood that these events will forever change the lives of future potential victims. The ability to file a lawsuit helps families move forward after tragedies such as collisions, work accidents, and medical malpractice by providing compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
The prospect of a lawsuit is a great motivator for corporations to consider their ways and place a premium on employee and consumer safety. Tort trials also alert the public to hazards to watch out for and conditions to cry out against.
Tort reform may sound like a good thing, but is it? Some have called the current trend of tort reform “the death of civil justice” and an infringement on your right to sue in a civil court after your life has been stolen away by greed or negligence.
Most tort reform groups have been organized covertly by corporations to push laws that eliminate accountability for defective products and dangerous conditions these same corporations have created. The curtailing of a system that has been highly effective at preventing deadly accidents by prompting corporations to build better machines, better training, and better conditions for employees can only result in further harm.
One of the best examples of reform is in the field of surgical anesthesiology. In the past, accidental deaths from poor anesthesiology practices led to some high dollar value major lawsuits. For example, in 2002 in Morgantown, a 13-year-old teen by the name of Kelsie Moore was given anesthesia during a routine dental procedure and died as result. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and built a beautiful gym that many in our area enjoy as a memorial to her life, but how infinitely better it would have been for that family to enjoy life with their beautiful daughter?
These lawsuits could not bring back the dead, but they did result in better accountability, better monitoring, better machines, and better practices. After a rash of anesthesiology lawsuits, the number of patients killed by poor anesthesiology fell from one in 6,000 to one in 200,000.
In the states that currently cap non-economic damages awarded for pain, suffering, disfigurement, and permanent disability, these states have seen an increase in medical accidents, wrongly-dosed medication, injuries caused by doctors, and misdiagnosis following this “tort reform” and have a rate of accidental death that is 6x higher than states without these caps.
The result of caps on damages and tort reform is that corporations can just build accident claims in their budget as the cost of doing business while people are still getting hurt and killed by their actions or inactions.
Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.