What Is Tort Reform and Why Should I Care?

Tort reform has been a hot topic in the legal world, especially in recent months.  For those who are unfamiliar, tort reform is a process that involves placing a limit on the dollar amount that a person who files a civil lawsuit can recover.  This affects personal injury claims very often, like in lawsuits for car accidents. When a person files a civil suit, they have the opportunity to collect both economic damages, like lost wages, as well as compensatory damages, like pain and suffering.  Additionally, there are also cases in which you can pursue punitive damages, which are supposed to act as a deterrent for the defendant to not act in the same negligent manner again.  Tort reform places a limit specifically on all non-economic damages, and is governed by state-specific laws.  

Many people argue against capping damages via tort reform. Most personal injury lawyers feel that tort reform is outdated, unrealistic, and unfair to their clients.  In general, people who want to abolish or greatly reduce the influence of tort reform note that damage caps are often unfair to the victim.  This is especially true in the case of long-term or permanent injuries, where pain and suffering will last decades or a lifetime.  Additionally, many naysayers of tort reform make the argument that tort reform violates our rights as laid out in the Constitution.  It is the duty of a jury to hear each case, make a decision, and come up with a reasonable damage award.  Tort caps reduce the power of the jurors to the extent that it may be inappropriate.   Tort reform also reduces the accountability of some people for their inappropriate or negligent actions. For example, a company that sells defective car products should be totally responsible for the full damage they cause if one of their parts causes a significant and deadly accident, regardless of an arbitrary damage cap.

Attorney Doug Stoehr is a personal injury lawyer who takes cases for people in central and western Pennsylvania who have been seriously injured due to the fault or negligence of others.  For more information on his Altoona, PA law firm, please call his office at 814-946-4100. 

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