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Let's Talk about Tort Reform: Part One - All About Torts & Personal Injury Law

Submitted by Anonymous on May 6th, 2009

Let's talk about tort reform. It's not quite as sexy as Salt-N-Pepa, but just as important regardless of who you are and what you stand for.

Tort reform refers to the modification of the tort law system to achieve three main goals: to reduce tort-related litigation, to reduce liability for tortious acts, and to reduce damages awarded to those injured in tort claims.

Let's back up slightly. To understand tort reform, one must have a basic understanding of tort law. In the simplest terms, tort law focuses on holding responsible parties liable for their negligent actions in addition to compensating a victim of negligence for their harms or injuries. The Rasansky Law Firm practices in personal injury law, a subdivision of tort law focusing primarily on physical, emotional, and psychological injuries. It is personal injury law that comes under regular attack by tort reform advocates.

So what is personal injury law? Anytime someone gets hurt or injured, is involved in an accident or mistake, or is the victim of abuse or neglect, personal injury law protects the rights of the victim in regaining losses sustained by the harm. Car accidents, birth injuries, medical malpractice, nursing home and daycare abuse, premise liability, and dangerous, unsafe or defective products are all covered under personal injury law.

Personal injury law varies by jurisdiction and as the term suggests, each case is personal, individualistic, and unique. Rarely are facts from one case perfectly matched to another. The general principles of personal injury law are as follows:

  • An accident, mistake, error, abuse, neglect, or injury occurs to a person. ["The Harm"]
  • This accident, mistake, error, abuse, neglect, or injury is caused, directly or indirectly, by another person or situation created by another person. ["The Cause"]
  • The other person or situation created by the other person had some form of duty to protect or avoid this accident, mistake, error, abuse, neglect, or injury. ["The Duty"]
  • This duty was either not performed or inadequately performed ["The Breach"]

Each negligence case must, by an evidence standard of preponderance of the evidence, prove every one of these factors. This means that a judge and/or jury must believe that the evidence presented to prove each one of these principles is more likely true than not true.

So what exactly do those advocating tort reform want to change?

Three major things:

  • Reduce overall personal injury litigation
  • Reduce liability for those responsible for accidents, mistakes, errors, abuses, neglect, or injuries
  • Reduce the damages, or the compensation to accident victims, in personal injury cases

Over the next few days, we'll be blogging about each of these changes, along with the truths and myths thrown around in politics and policy, as well as the real-life effects on the everyday person. Stay tuned.