People talk about “ambulance chasers” and attorneys earning “easy money” by filing frivolous lawsuits. These statements are based on a gross misconception of 1) how the American civil justice system actually works and 2) how difficult it is to prevail even in a case with a legitimate claim.
American civil justice system is adversarial, meaning that both sides have an opportunity to present evidence in support of their positions. If a plaintiff has a “frivolous” claim, in most situations, the case will not even make it in front of a jury. In fact, plaintiffs’ attorneys weed out most, if not all, of the non-meritorious claims because they are paid on a contingency-basis (no recovery, no fee). Thus, why would any rational attorney spend his or her money, time, and energy on a “frivolous” case when he or she knows, upfront, that if there is no recovery, there is no attorney’s fee?
In addition, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. The defense only has to create doubt, point out weaknesses and or inconsistencies – which is not very hard to do given the fact that most of the evidence is presented by live witness testimony and as many studies have shown, human beings are prone to err when it comes to recollecting an event accurately, especially if the incident happened several years ago.
The truth is that there are many more plaintiffs with legitimate claims who are not compensated than a plaintiff who wins a jury verdict jackpot with a frivolous lawsuit. Next time you hear someone mention “ambulance chasers” or “Tort Reform,” ask that person how many times he or she has personally tried and won a jury verdict on a frivolous case. You can bet that the answer is a big, fat, ZERO.
Feel free to comment on this blog or call Seeley Legal Services for an in-depth discussion.