The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit: Why Moneyed Interests Want You to Believe We Sue Too Much
I’ve always been amazed at how unseen forces have controlled the nation’s perception about personal injury cases and the lawyers who prosecute them. We have perpetuated a myth about our society being full of people ready to sue at the slightest inconvenience. This false narrative is one that benefits the insurance companies and other large institutions, but it doesn’t serve regular people at all. Let me paint a picture for you of how this works in practice.
A person is injured in an auto accident through no fault of their own. When they try to receive a just settlement from the other driver’s insurance company (and sometimes even through their own), they are low-balled. They’re probably not even offered enough to cover their medical expenses, let alone other compensatory damages. Without hiring an attorney, they have no choice but to accept this measly offer. They need the money, after all, and the insurance companies are banking on them needing it enough to forgo their justly deserved level of compensation.
Who is the irresponsible party in this situation? Is it the citizen who needs an advocate to get what’s theirs? Or is it the insurance company who refuses to pay out what they owe, despite that being the very point of insurance in the first place?
I think it’s clear who is acting in bad faith here, but the powers that be would like you to believe it’s the person who’s accountable for their troubles. Every time they can promote a story about a frivolous or zany lawsuit, they hope it will influence your decision not to pursue a case against them. These institutions also lobby Congress with loads of money to ensure their interests are protected. If that protection comes at the expense of these companies’ customers, so be it. Remember, the insurance company worries about its bottom line above all else. They couldn’t give a crap about you as a person.
Now, what’s even more frustrating is that there is a kernel of truth to this narrative that allows these interests to fabricate it further. Yes, there are personal injury firms that take on cases that have no right to be in suit. Yes, there are people who are only in it for the money. But they are not the vast majority of personal injury attorneys. When you hear a story about an evil-doing doctor causing harm to his patients, you don’t assume all doctors are morally bankrupt. But when it comes to attorneys, we are all too happy to extrapolate messages about the industry based on the actions of the very worst within it.
Here’s the truth: I would go broke if I took on frivolous cases. I only get paid when a resolution happens in my client’s favor, and I often have to expend resources on the front end to ensure that resolution happens. I get paid and keep my doors open by helping honest folks battle anonymous institutions who are all too happy to take advantage of them. Does that sound frivolous to you?
In closing, I want to reiterate that any story people tell to keep you from acting in your own best interest is one worth scrutinizing. Obviously, this particular fable is near and dear to me, but it’s far from the only one we’re told. Remember that the next time somebody tells you that America is a country of lawsuit-crazed money grubbers.