Time Magazine has an interesting article on auto tort cases. The article has the usual stuff: insurance company complaints about high verdicts, people faking injuries, jackpot justice, the backlog in the courts, and that most personal injury victims only receive small settlements. Here are a few quotes:
The automobile accounts for half to three-quarters of personal-injury suits, fully 25% of all civil cases brought to state law courts. In Chicago, more than 50,000 auto cases are awaiting trial. In Los Angeles, auto liability cases have nearly tripled in the past decade. In New York City, more than 90,000 new cases come up each year. Across the country, Americans pay out $6.5 billion a year in automobile insurance premiums—yet in the past decade the insurance companies have suffered a net loss of more than $850,000 on this business.
Getting his case to the jury so that [the auto accident victim can recover] may take four years in New York City, three years in Boston, over 2½ years in Honolulu or Detroit. Courts in Los Angeles have held the delay to less than two years. In Miami the wait is less than six months—an interval many lawyers consider too short to allow the medical evidence to “ripen.” But in Chicago, at the other extreme, the traffic jam is backed up for a staggering 5½ years.
The article underscores the frustration the public has with the complete thing: car insurance companies, the courts, the lawyers, and the occasional fakers that try to sue.
Oh, one more thing worth mentioning. The article was published in Time over 45 years ago.
Over 2300 years ago, the Egyptians published a civil code that was so large that they broke it into twelve books. People have been complaining about the legal system and the players in the legal system, at least since then. The system we had then and have now is fraught with frivolous lawsuits, plaintiffs getting compensation for pain and suffering that they did not incur, and defendants using their wealth and power to walk over the little guy and to avoid taking responsibility for the injuries they caused.
Absent anarchy or the destruction of civilization, defects in the system will continue. We need to keep working to fine-tune our judicial system to best achieve justice, but no one – the parties or their car accident lawyers – on either side of the “V” will think we achieve justice in every case.