Is it just me, or do Americans love to sue each other? It seems like I can’t turn on the TV without seeing an ad for a personal injury lawyer, can’t go for a drive without seeing a personal injury lawyer’s billboard, and can’t listen to the radio without hearing a personal injury lawyer’s voice. I also know that Americans have a history of dumb lawsuits, like that McDonald’s coffee one.
My question for the experts is this: are other countries like this? Do they sue each other all of the time?
Folks in our country have a reputation for lawsuits, and there is some data that backs up the idea of the litigious American. However, the reputation is not entirely earned, and focusing too much on stories of frivolous lawsuits can blind us to the more important issues surrounding lawsuits, which are an essential tool in many countries for citizens to protect themselves from unjust treatment.
Americans may file a lot of lawsuits, but that doesn’t mean they file too many. Some experts feel that we have too few lawsuits, because few people who are injured end up filing suit. That means that other, less litigious countries are lagging even further behind–a bad thing, these experts argue, for their injured citizens.
However, some lawsuits must be frivolous, right? No doubt, but the anecdotes we tell may overstate the case, and some of our most repeated stories are inaccurate. The famous “hot coffee” lawsuit, for example, featured dangerously overheated coffee and horrific injuries–far from the vision of an overwarm lap that many of us have.
Personal injury law is important because it allows those who are harmed to be compensated for things like lost income and high medical bills. It is not just a feature of American law, international law experts tell us. Most Western legal systems offer similar forms of recourse to injured parties.
Take our neighbors to the north, for instance. In Canada, as in the United States, it is possible to sue for personal injury and recover financial losses from the party responsible. That’s important, says one personal injury lawyer Halifax. A personal injury lawsuit must prove that a party was injured, that the injury was caused by the accident in question, and that the accident in question was caused by the negligence of another party (the one being sued). When used the proper way, this sort of lawsuit offers a way for injured parties to begin to rebuild their lives, recovering lost wages and compensation for medical bills from the party that is responsible. It’s not about revenge, lawyers say, nor is it a get-rich-quick scheme: it’s just about holding the correct people accountable and making sure that innocent parties aren’t ruined by an accident that they didn’t cause.
As always, there is room for debate. Your personal and political beliefs may suggest one position or another, and we won’t get into that. However, you should know the background information that we’ve provided here so that you understand why personal injury law exists, and why it’s used in other countries as well as ours. It may not make the advertisements any more enjoyable, but at least now you’ll understand why they exist!
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James