Caps are good start, but personal injury lawyers are still trolling

The Illinois General Assembly’s recent passage of caps on medical malpractice awards is a positive step forward in the fight to stop lawsuit abuse in lawsuit-happy Illinois.

But legislation can only do so much to restore common sense and fairness to our courts. Unfortunately, there is still much more that needs to be done in the fight against greedy personal injury lawyers.

We see those television ads morning, noon and night. Personal injury lawyers are encouraging people to hop on the lawsuit bandwagon and sue. These advertisements often pretend to be “warnings” to patients, but we all know the motivation behind this. Some greedy personal injury lawyers are trying to get rich, and they don’t care if they have to reduce our access to healthcare in the process.

The real problem here is that many of the plaintiffs recruited to join lawsuits have not been harmed in any way. But to a greedy personal injury lawyer, more plaintiffs can mean more money in a class action lawsuit. Unfortunately, this hurts those who have been injured and takes away from their compensation. Our civil justice system is in place to help victims, but it is being abused by greedy personal injury lawyers.

The general public is keenly aware of the lawsuit epidemic being encouraged by aggressive personal injury lawyer advertising. A recent survey shows two thirds of Illinois residents believe personal lawyer advertising encourages people to sue even if they have not been injured. Also, an astonishing 83 percent agree that personal injury lawyers who file health care lawsuits are more interested in making money than in helping patients.

Misleading advertisements also can have a negative health impact. According to a Harris Interactive survey, 40 percent of pharmacists report being aware of patients stopping their medication when hearing the drug might be involved in litigation, no matter how frivolous the claims may be. This means many people are taking healthcare advice from lawyers instead of their doctor, and that’s a dangerous situation.

Illinois is one of the top five plaintiff-friendly states, according to a Harris Interactive report. Personal injury lawyers who use advertising as a way to troll for plaintiffs are only making the problem worse.

So, what can be done about this problem? We need rules requiring that ads from personal injury lawyers include disclaimers so that consumers understand how alleged injuries are often speculative and unproven by science. Also, these ads should be required to advise consumers to consult their doctors before considering whether to join a lawsuit.

And finally, advertising should inform consumers that unless they themselves have been injured, joining a lawsuit may take compensation away from legitimate victims.

Of course, people also need to move away from the “sue first” mentality that pervades our culture. Taking a problem to court should be a last resort, but, sadly, it’s a first instinct for many people.

It’s time to fix our broken legal system, because the lawsuit epidemic is making us sick.

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