Mainstream media and pop culture sometimes depict personal injury lawsuits as frivolous, or at least frivolous in most cases. While there are certainly examples of frivolous lawsuits filed by nefarious individuals, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits aren’t frivolous at all.
Why does this misconception exist? And how can we confidently claim that most personal injury lawsuits aren’t frivolous?
Why Personal Injury Lawsuits Are Seen as Frivolous
If you talk to a personal injury lawyer, they’ll likely tell you that they take their work very seriously – and that they’ve seen some truly horrific injuries and accidents over the years. So where does the perception of personal injury lawsuits as frivolous come from?
There are a few different sources:
- Propaganda campaigns. Big businesses and wealthy individuals sometimes downplay personal injury lawsuits as a way to protect their reputations. For example, if a fast-food restaurant is sued for causing a severe personal injury, they may intentionally portray the plaintiff as frivolous, delusional, or as exaggerating the extent of the injury. This can sometimes lead to a lower payout in court, but more importantly, it preserves the reputation of the organization and discourages people from bringing further lawsuits to them in the future.
- Presentations in media. Personal injury lawsuits are also sometimes presented as inherently frivolous in the media. We can all think of examples of TV shows and movies where fraudsters or liars use personal injury lawsuits as a kind of get-rich-quick scheme. But in real life, these cases are extremely rare, for reasons we’ll explore shortly.
- Advertising misperceptions. Personal injury lawyers sometimes market themselves or advertise in ways that lead to misconceptions. In reality, most lawyers just want to make sure their name and firm are top of mind for anyone who experiences a legitimate personal injury.
Why Personal Injury Lawsuits Aren’t Frivolous
These are just some of the reasons why personal injury lawsuits shouldn’t be considered frivolous by default:
- There aren’t as many personal injury lawsuits as you think. First, there probably aren’t as many personal injury lawsuits as you think. It’s tempting to think that the courts are completely clogged up with frivolous cases, but personal injury lawsuits that make it to trial are actually quite rare.
- Duty and negligence exist. In tort law, people have expected legal duties from each other, and a breach of this duty is considered negligence. In many situations and contexts, we’re expected to keep each other reasonably safe. Failing to do this, and causing someone else’s injury in the process, means you’re responsible for that injury.
- There are real costs associated with personal injuries. Compensation in a personal injury case isn’t rewarded for its own sake; it’s rewarded to compensate a person for expenses they’ve incurred literally. Depending on the severity of the injury, these expenses can be exorbitant. A person may end up owing thousands, or even millions of dollars in medical expenses, they could be set up for a lifetime of physical therapy and prescription medication, and they could find themselves out of work, losing their wages both unexpectedly and undeservedly. The person responsible for creating these expenses should, therefore, be the one to pay them.
- Payouts aren’t as big as you imagine. All of us have heard of personal injury cases that award tens of millions of dollars, so it’s tempting to think that everyone who sues for a slip and fall injury is posturing for this type of lottery-level payout. But in reality, these payouts are quite rare. Most payouts are much more grounded and in line with the expenses incurred by the plaintiff.
- Most cases are settled out of court. Additionally, most cases are settled out of court. Both parties participating in the lawsuit want to resolve matters as quickly and easily as possible, so they’re motivated to negotiate for a fair settlement outside of court.
- Most people don’t bother with minor injuries. If you tripped and skinned your knee in a grocery store parking lot, would the thought of a lawsuit even cross your mind? The answer is no for most people. Most of us are too busy to even think about making time for a lawsuit – and those of us who contact a lawyer often do so because they’re genuinely and severely hurt.
- Fraudsters are easily caught. With surveillance cameras and dash cams for vehicles now being universally common, it’s easier than ever to catch fraudsters. Fraudulent personal injury claims are getting rarer and rarer.
Personal injury lawsuits are much more legitimate and important than most people think. If you’re ever the victim of someone else’s misdeeds or negligence, it’s important that you contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after seeking medical attention.