As is always the case, I hope none of you ever finds yourself a party to a lawsuit. Whether you are the plaintiff or defendant, whether you win or lose litigation is unpleasant, disruptive, and often disappointing. Filing a lawsuit should always be the last resort when trying to resolve a dispute. That’s true whether the dispute is over personal injuries you sustained in a car accident or whether your neighbor is encroaching onto your property with his recently erected fence.
Nonetheless, the right to file a lawsuit (or seek redress through the courts) is an important and necessary tool to seek justice when one has been wronged. Our law states: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
The amount in controversy requirement has changed considerably over the years but the right to a trial by jury is preserved. This is important because when it comes to determining the legal rights as between individuals, an individual and a corporation, or an individual and governmental entity, there is no better source than the jury, a collection of everyday people who bring their common sense, experience, intelligence, and a willingness to follow the law to bear on the facts before them.
Regrettably, when it comes to personal injury, our society has become jaundiced, cold, and indifferent. My favorite band, The Eagles, criticize personal injury lawsuits and personal injury lawyers in their song “Get over It.” The lyrics go like this: “You say you haven’t been the same since you had your little crash but you might feel better if they gave you some cash. The more I think about it, ole Billy (William Shakespeare-King Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene II) was right; “let’s kill all the lawyers, kill them tonight.”
The problem with that mind-set is that without lawyers and without access to the courtroom, a person who is injured, whether in a car accident, a fall at a department store, or because of a medical procedure gone wrong, would not be able to obtain redress, albeit in the form of monetary compensation for the injuries. Let’s face it, a personal injury can be devastating, life altering, and permanent. Our tort system says that if your personal injuries are the result of the wrongful conduct of another, you are entitled to compensation from that other (person or entity). In today’s world, that person or entity is usually insured and the insurance companies would have no incentive to pay a valid claim if the injured person did not have access to a lawyer and a court of law.
To be sure, there are frivolous lawsuits. The good people of Maricopa County who are chosen to sit as jurors show little difficulty dispatching frivolous claims if such claims get past the pretrial motions. All too often, our friends on the defensive side of personal injury lawsuits, most notably the insurance companies, perpetuate a myth that frivolousness is the rule and not the exception. In that regard, I suppose a frivolous lawsuit is like an activist judge. If the judge rules against you, he or she must be an activist. If the plaintiff loses his or her lawsuit, it must have been frivolous.
If you were injured in an accident, at the fault of another party, you are entitled to monetary compensation to pay for medical bills and lost wages at a minimum. This is the very reason it is mandatory for drivers in the State of Arizona to have insurance and the very reason trucking companies and construction companies and most companies have insurance. Don’t be afraid to make your claim if you have one. If you were legitimately injured by another party, this is your right.
For a variety of reasons, many people find lawsuits offensive and are reluctant to consider a lawsuit even to protect their own rights. While I would never quarrel with one’s convictions in this regard, at Clarke Law Offices, my conviction is to prosecute our injured clients’ claims with vigor and to present those claims to a jury when necessary.