Have you ever assumed that lawsuit damage caps are a good thing? “let’s put a stop to those damn greedy lawyers and runaway juries!” However, before you make your mind up, consider the following. Although you encounter a lot of media stories about multi-million dollar verdicts for what seem like small injuries, the truth is those are as rare as June snowflakes in Texas. The vast majority of cases are small to medium sized personal injury claims, usually auto accidents, slip and fall, or on-the-job injuries. Damage caps make it much harder to find a lawyer who will take your case, and you will get much less because of caps.
Why harder to find a lawyer? Because lawsuits are expensive to bring, and are very risky for lawyers. They don’t get paid unless they win, and if they lose they have lost not only their time but a lot of out-of-pocket money they’ve invested for experts, court reporters, etc. The less the potential for recovery, the more selective they have to be in choosing cases. And yes, that’s the real hidden purpose behind damage caps. It’s not to punish lawyers for frivolous cases- it’s to drastically reduce the total number of worthy cases. After all, it’s the worthy cases that cost insurance companies the most, not the frivolous ones. Any lawyer who consistently brings frivolous lawsuits will automatically be removed from the system because she or he will go broke. It’s self-correcting economics.
Sure, there will always be a few cases that are examples of unworthy cases going for a big dollar verdict. But against that is the silent reality that many, many meritorious cases are lost, and the deserving injured party gets zero. Our justice system is not perfect and it occasionally produces results which are unjust. But it is far and away the best justice system that humankind has ever devised. There will never be a perfect system that never produces occasionally bad results, but if most of the people get justice most of the time, that is an enormous achievement in human history.
Arkansas has a proposal called Issue 1 which will come before the voters this November. If you are considering voting in favor of this, please take the time to carefully study the arguments on both sides. Don’t vote away your rights based on false assumptions —too many have fought and died for them!