If you are hurt by a careless doctor, a negligent product, or a reckless driver, you should be able to make a civil claim to be compensated for damages with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
However, proposed tort reform laws could soon make it more difficult for victims to get full and fair compensation for losses. Republicans have long been in favor of tort reform, and the Washington Post is reporting about several proposed bills would fundamentally change the civil justice system.
It is unclear if the bills will pass. If they are successful, the right to obtain compensation won't be completely eliminated. However, it could get harder, and victims may not be eligible to receive as much. Unfortunately, if the bills pass, victims may not be able to be fully compensated or "made whole," for all economic losses. And, some cases which should be heard may never get to court as a result of rule changes.
Finding the right lawyer will be key for victims, so be sure to look for an attorney who is closely following the tort reform process and who can help you if someone harms you.
Washington Post reported on a number of different bills which could make it more difficult for consumers to get justice using the court system.
One of the most problematic bills, HR 1215, would require federal judges to impose sanctions on attorneys if those lawyers brought cases on behalf of clients which were found to be frivolous. While this sounds good in theory, Center for Justice and Democracy indicates something similar was tried in the past but was rescinded due to the adverse impact of the regulation. The effect of sanctioning attorneys for bringing client cases was to chill the filing of legitimate and meritorious civil rights claims. The sanctions also resulted in fewer claims under environmental protection laws and employee protection laws, among other important consumer protections.
Another bill would impose a $250,000 damage cap on non-financial damages in malpractice cases. Damage caps already exist throughout many states, and they are a problem where they exist. Victims end up not getting the full amount of compensation a court believes is appropriate because of artificial caps imposed by lawmakers. If the proposed bill passes, this type of cap will apply on the federal level so victims of malpractice could be left without fair compensation for pain they endure due to a failure on the part of a healthcare provider.
Other bills would change rules for federal class actions. They also threaten to restrict the government from paying out certain kinds of settlements and would shift some cases from more plaintiff-friendly state courts to federal courts. The likelihood of all these bills passing is slim, but some have a good shot. Injury plaintiffs should ensure they have an experienced attorney who can help them maximize their chances of receiving the most possible compensation.