Much ado is made about the American people being sue-happy, and the threat of runaway juries driving up the costs of everything from healthcare to homeowner’s insurance. People want to make lawyers the enemy—if we weren’t such greedy, ambulance-chasers who tries to make a million-dollar case out of every fender bender we see, the world would probably be a better place, right?
But, consider this: if the system worked, you wouldn’t need us at all. You buy homeowners insurance (or health insurance or car insurance, etc.) to alleviate the risk of something going wrong and costing you big. You pay them even when everything is fine and nothing’s going on, and they’re supposed to step in and pay when things come up. That’s what insurance is. It should be a simple transaction. No lawyers necessary.
But that is so often not what happens. The insurance companies want to collect your premiums and keep them. When the time comes that you need them, they are trying to pay you back as little as possible regardless of what you actually need from them. No one likes suing (clients tell me this all the time—“I’m not the kind of person who sues people”—like this is supposed to make me (the kind of person who sues people, a.k.a. a lawyer) feel good), but everyone wants to be treated fairly.
When you’ve suffered an injury and incurred hospital bills and lost wages, plus you’re in pain and feeling miserable, and the insurance company wants to flip you a couple of grand and call it a day—you know you’re not being treated fairly. And that’s where the lawyers come in. (The good news is that most of these claims don’t actually turn into lawsuits and even fewer go to trial—reasonable settlements are possible, but not usually without the threat of a lawyer coming in and ruining their lives.)
Of course, the insurance companies use their profits (from not treating their customers fairly) to hire lobbyists to tell the legislature that the lawyers are out here ruining their business and driving up costs. Then we get “tort reform” bills that make it even harder for us to recover on our clients’ behalf, and the cycle continues. It breaks my heart when I have to tell a potential client that would otherwise have a good case that the law is not on their side. But nothing will change until the legislature starts putting injured people ahead of big business.