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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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A Tractor-Trailer Rear End Collision Causes Quadriplegia: Tort Reform Anyone?

3 comments

A young man was rear-ended when he stopped for a traffic back-up on the highway. A tractor-trailer slammed into him without any attempt to slow down or apply the brakes. The young man’s neck snapped and he instantly became a quadriplegic.

What a heart wrenching ordeal for the young man and his family. The young man needs 24 hour per day, 7 days per week care and was forced to file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation for this very necessary care. Years later, after a jury trial and several appeals, the young man finally received his seven-figure award. Hopefully, it will suffice to provide lifetime care. A sudden, unexpected accident totally and catastrophically disables a previously healthy young man. Even more devastating, the accident was caused by the negligence of an inattentive driver. It is natural to want to blame the negligent driver; it is natural to seek justice, to seek compensation. It is a multi-million dollar burden to care for a quadriplegic. The victim will pain and suffer and need around the clock care for the rest of his life. While other young men are finishing school, meeting women, getting married, starting careers, starting families, this young man is starting a new life as a helpless, family burden.

If you follow the logic of those who support so-called "tort reform" (restrictions on people’s rights to pursue litigation and restrictions on what compensation they can receive) they argue that "frivolous lawsuits" or "lawsuit abuse" are costing all of us money by assessing offending businesses with a "lawsuit tax" that is passed on to the consumer. In the cited case, the "offending business" would be the trucking company that rear-ended the young man. The company now has to pay millions for the young man’s support. As tort reform logic goes, this cost would be passed on to the consumer because the trucking company must pay more for insurance or must pay a large deductible on its insurance policy.

But, fellow citizens, if the burden does not fall on the negligent, inattentive, trucker and his employer, those responsible for the accident and its consequences, then who? The answer is something that most of you probably haven’t considered: The burden would fall on the shoulders of the young man’s health insurance company and/or the taxpayers (Medicare or Medicaid). And what would that do? It would raise the cost of private and/or public health insurance and place cost burdens upon providers who had nothing to do with causing this catastrophic event.

In either scenario, a totally disabled man must get 24/7 care. In any scenario, medical and support costs for this young man will be enormous. An unregulated legal system places the entire burden of his care on the person and/or company that caused the catastrophe. The alternative "tort reform" solution places minimal burden on those responsible (at an artificial "capped" number) and the majority of the burden on the victim, his health insurance and health care providers, his family, and the American taxpayer. In other words, it spreads the burden, placing the majority of the expense and raising costs on those who were in no way responsible for the event.

In our society, someone must care for those who cannot care for themselves. The question is: Who should it be? I don’t care whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian; which system do you think is fairest to all concerned? If you are in favor of smaller government, less taxes, and personal responsibility, why would you support proposals that permit the legislative branch to infringe on the judicial branch? Why would you support proposals that shift the burden of the cost of care from the person and/or company that is personally responsible for the accident to the taxpayer or a health insurance carrier? Why would any of you ever support the concept known as "tort reform"?

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

3 Comments

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  1. Jon Lewis says:
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    Good post Mark! The point of the tort system is to shift costs to the party at fault. That’s why we have insurance. It is ridiculous to think that the system should be scrapped or that we shouldn’t award appropriate verdicts because our auto insurance rates will go up. If insurance premiums rose and fell with lawsuits, wouldn’t premiums rise when the number of lawsuits filed increases and fall when the number of lawsuits go down? That doesn’t happen because premiums are not determined so much by lawsuits and claims but more from the success of the insurance company’s investments.

    The real problem is that the public doesn’t truly understand how the system works, and the insurance companies and U.S. Chamber have done a great job with the propaganda they espouse. They take one example like the McDonald’s hot coffee case and use it as the poster child for tort reform. And, even in that situation, they distort the facts or fail to present ALL of the facts and circumstances.

    It is REALLY amazing. Hopefully, posts like this can help educate us all.

    Thanks.

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    Great post Mark! You make a great point about health insurance and/or Medicare/Medicaid having to pick up the tab. In essence, when the responsible party fails to pay for the damages, its a tax on all of us whether through increased healthcare costs and/or more burdensome taxes to fund the government programs.

    One other item, under what version of justice can someone honestly claim that a quadriplegic maximum amount of emotional pain and suffering is $250,000 which is the “ideal” cap according to the State and U.S. Chamber of Commerce? The heartbreak and emotional toll associated with required 24/7 care and the inability to do things with those you love cannot even be quantified in such derogatory amounts.

  3. Randy Bess says:
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    Outstanding post! Hearing about someone being injured is not something that most of us care to hear about. When a personal injury occurs, we can become very frustrated with the situation. There are instances in which one has suffered some either physical and/or psychological injuries that occurred from an accident in which someone else may be legally responsible for. If an injured person believes that the person who they feel caused their personal injuries, a personal injury case may be initiated through the civil courts.

    Choosing an attorney can be frustrating due to the number of attorneys available in your area. Obtaining certain facts about an attorney can help an injured person decide who will be the attorney to best represent them in court. An attorney who specializes in personal injuries is very important to keep in mind as this means that the attorney is very knowledgeable of the local and state laws regarding personal injuries.