Mike, Bush was not responsible for getting tort reform through. Bush just uses it as a talking point and he has gotten some done with Federal caps, addressing class action suits, primarily. Most of Texas tort reform happened under a Democrat although it was a movement sponsored by Republicans. Although Perry's congress got further reform passed which basically limits the noneconomic damages to $250,000. That would be emotional loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish...that kind of thing. There are caps on almost all damages now. Municipalities and Texas government entities have an even smaller cap which is economic and noneconomic, I think either $100,000 or $200,000. Juries may award millions, but when it boils right down to it, the Plaintiff doesn't recover that much...unless the case was filed before tort reform. The big headlines you see in lawsuits are just sensationalism....it just doesn't happen anymore. If the case goes through appeal, the Supreme Court reverses it or cuts the damages awarded by the jury. This is Texas law, I'm talking about.
Let me ask you this, Mike. Let's take a realistic scenario. You own a small one-story building which you use for your business. You bought it because of its location and the kind of business traffic you get in that location. You've been very successful there. Now the city you live in comes along and condemns your property under eminent domain. You get the bank or an appraiser to estimate the value of your property and what kind of losses you'll undergo as a result of having to relocate. They come up with a figure of $1 Million. The City's appraisers say the property is only worth $500,000. Tell me in all honesty that you will not hire an attorney to represent your interest and go to Court to protect your investment? According to the Supreme Court's ruling a year or so ago, land can now be acquired/condemned by cities or communities simply on the grounds that the land would be of more financial benefit to the city if it was used in another way. People think they own land....all they really own in most cases is a license to use the land and it can be confiscated anytime there is a better use for it. One of my clients here in Texas told me they had over 400 eminent domain cases and were anticipating more since the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. Tell me those attorneys are not needed to represent citizens' rights.
Personally, I would hate to see a world with no one to represent the interests of the little guy. I used to think like you, Mike, but I have witnessed far too much not to have changed me unless I had no conscious or just didn't understand intellectually what was happening. Even before my own legal action, I thought I had all I needed to get my claim settled by myself. I had an admission of liability, a police officer's report citing the man who caused the accident, a totaled car with pictures to show it, and medical bills of over $30,000, all of which I provided to the insurance company along with several doctors' reports indicating the severity of my injuries. I signed a statement which the insurance company asked me to sign indicating I could be prosecuted if I was making a false claim. Mike, I was still living in an illusion...that insurance companies would be fair, especially if I didn't ask for any extra. Wow, was I wrong. There is such an attitude of arrogance that permeates the insurance industry (at least here in Texas) that they won't even offer to settle death claims where there is clear liability. Their TV ad campaigns (many times involving politicians) over the last 15 years have served to prejudice jurors here in Texas with the exception of a very few counties. On this, I can speak with authority, since this is my job to know.
I'm not saying that there are no crooks out there and people who would take advantage of a system. What I am saying is thank God there are some "white knights." It is not a black and white issue as you would argue. Laws favor big business and insurance companies now...that has been happening right in front of our eyes for the past 20 years. It was a planned assault and executed strategically by lobbyists in many, many states and in Washington, D.C. They have more or less succeeded in shorting the little guy and limiting losses. Additionally, the federal laws concerning class action cases...those were not designed to protect me and you...they were designed to protect big business.
If manufacturers produced products that were not defective (many times on purpose); if contractors kept their end of the bargain; if insurance companies would just pay a claim when legitimate; if truck drivers weren't overworked or on drugs when they ran down and killed a car full of people; if farmers kept their cows fenced in on their property and they didn't get out in the road and cause someone to crash; if people kept their dogs on chains or in pens so they didn't get out and destroy a herd of sheep or a flock of ostriches or chew the hand off a little 6-year-old; if drugs all had clear warnings on the labels; if bar owners made sure no one ever left drunk; if pipeline inspectors never neglected their jobs and didn't miss a leaking hole which caused an explosion killing two teenagers in a horrendous fire with the dad watching his kids burn alive; if construction companies adhered to safety standards and OSHA regulations; if no one dumped toxic waste into back yards to drain down into your property contaminating your drinking water and causing cancer; if cities or states did not want to acquire property to boost revenue; if people and businesses always paid their bills, rent or mortgages on time; etc., etc., THEN we wouldn't need attorneys. But until that day, I am thankful we have them.
Oh, and by the way, the Texas State Bar has rules regarding attorney advertising and solicitation which are very strict. I suspect that is true in Florida, too. There are a few bad apples in the barrel that give attorneys a bad name...there may be some ambulance chasers, but that is unethical practice....why don't you report them to the state bar ethics committee? No one ever approached me after my accident. I had to seek help.
In my opinion, federal tort reform is one more attempt by this administration to take power from the states and put it into the federal domain...I always thought Republicans wanted limited federal government and were states' rights advocates (since 1930s), and yet here we are right along with all the other legislation that has gotten through, e.g., No Child Left Behind, to name just one. Geez....if I remember my history, wasn't it states' rights issues that brought on the Civil War?
[This message has been edited by iliana (10-22-2006 04:20 AM).]