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Compensation Culture: Lawyers, Outrageous Cases, and Everyday People

Written by Tom Crosley
Catastrophic Personal Injury

Has anyone ever threatened to sue you? From grown adults making offhand threats in a moment of anger or frustration to children making hasty accusations on the playground, it seems like just about everyone in the United States is ready to take legal action against one another at a moment’s notice. What’s worse is that in the news and media we also seem to regularly hear reports about outrageous or silly lawsuits being brought up in the courts. These common perceptions are part of what has become known as a “compensation culture” in the United States and many other developed nations.

The compensation culture was described by one British official as “an ethos [which believes that] all misfortunes short of an Act of God are probably someone else’s fault, and that the suffering should be relieved, or at any rate marked, by the receipt of a sum of money.” Whether it’s burglars suing homeowners or people suing haunted houses for being too scary, a lot of the blame for our supposedly litigation-happy society is leveled at personal injury lawyers.

Despite many of these ridiculous or frivolous cases getting a lot of press, very few of them end up resulting in a win for the people who file them. As personal injury lawyers, we consider it part of our job to not only uphold the integrity of the law and the legal system – which means representing innocent victims who have been harmed by the obvious neglect of others – but also to help educate and inform the general public about the real work that attorneys do.

For example, many people don’t realize that we do a great deal of investigating into a claim before we even decide to take it on. This not only helps us get a better sense of the legal merits of a case, but also gives us a more comprehensive picture of the situation surrounding an injury as well as the people involved. With our years of experience handling personal injury cases, it usually only takes a few minutes to know if a case is legitimate and if it is likely to ultimately result in a favorable outcome for the victim.

If the details don’t add up, if we don’t have enough information, or if something just doesn’t feel right, we will continue investigating, and we will also consult with other experienced lawyers either within our firm or that we trust and have established a good working relationship with. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this means that attorneys like us don’t end up working with dubious cases (or clients). And the suspect cases that do end up moving on almost always end up losing in the end because it is ultimately a jury of people with common sense and good judgment just like you or I who eventually decide the outcome of a personal injury case if it does make it all the way to trial.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the image of attorneys that these cases are harming. In fact, even if the general impression of attorneys continued getting more and more negative, we’d still continue doing our job because we know that it makes a positive difference in the lives of people who have been hurt by the carelessness of others. That’s why most of us got involved in personal injury law in the first place. However, what the growing compensation culture has done, somewhat ironically, is also make people less likely to pursue legal action when they really should because of the increasingly popular perception that there is way too much frivolous litigation in the courts and that it is somehow wrong or undignified to file suit – even if you have a truly good reason to!

Many of our clients come to us nervous (thinking their case is not worthwhile) or sheepish (after friends and/or family members had to repeatedly encourage them to see an attorney about their situation). For the vast majority of these clients, there is a legitimate and important case to be made: they were injured in a vehicle collision when someone else was at fault, they had a doctor who made bad judgments or made an egregious mistake during their surgery (or surgeries!), they experienced serious complications as a direct result of taking a prescription medication, etc.

Often, these same clients are in a precarious financial situation because they have had to pay medical bills and had other expenses related to their injuries that they weren’t even responsible for in the first place. And here’s the big secret that most attorneys don’t like to share: the average personal injury case settlement is right around $25,000. While some clients undoubtedly have grounds to file suit for much more, most personal injury cases do not involve huge sums of money. They are filed in order to simply recover medical expenses that have already been paid, compensate for any property damage associated with an injury event, and to make sure that any future medical expenses related to an injury will not leave victims in debt.

Thus, for every dubious case where someone is trying to rig their own personal injury lottery, there are probably 100 cases that involve legitimate, innocent victims who have been hurt by the negligence of someone else and deserve not to end up in debt or bankrupt paying for injuries that are the result of someone else’s actions. Unfortunately – whether it is because of the perception of attorneys, the notion of a compensation culture, or any number of other ideas that people have regarding the law or the legal process – many victims unjustly suffer because they do not consider at least consulting with an attorney about their situation to see if legal action is a wise and prudent decision on their part.

At Crosley Law Firm, we are proud of the reputation we have built as a trustworthy, client-centered legal practice. We take both the integrity of our profession and the needs of our clients very seriously. That is why we offer free consultations and a no-fee policy. That means, if you have questions or if you want to explore the legal options you have for a particular situation, we can give you expert legal advice about your best course of action. It also means that if we do represent you in your case, we won’t charge you a penny for our services unless or until you obtain a settlement or win your case in court. If you’d like to speak to an attorney, you can call our offices at (877) 535-4529 or submit the details of your situation online. We look forward to hearing from you.

Walker, R., & Veale, S. (2003, October 7). Compensation culture: myth or reality?. The Times Law Supplement, p. 8. Retrieved from http://www.biicl.org/files/765_compensation_culture.pdf

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