Two recent articles caused me to pause and consider whether today’s major newspapers report the news in a consumer friendly way or whether, like other large industries, they are simply aligned with insurance companies and other large corporate concerns in their campaign to discredit those industries (trial lawyers and lawsuit funding) that assist injured plaintiffs in their battles with major insurance companies. Part I will deal, primarily with the editorial published by the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune slams the Illinois “Non-Recourse Civil Litigation Funding Act,” which would regulate how litigants receive necessities of life lawsuit funding, as their cases proceed through the court system. Litigation funding would help alleviate "significant financial stress" for plaintiffs who are waiting for their lawsuit to be settled. The Tribune claims that lawsuit funding companies that gamble on the outcome of these lawsuits have no interest in justice, and opponents believe the bill would encourage more lawsuits. WHAT!? Here’s the truth: Whatever a lawsuit funding company charges for the risks it takes (and my company takes plenty of risks and has invested in plenty of cases with bad outcomes) it pales in comparison to the insurance company profits that are earned as a direct result of their "delay, deny, confuse and refuse" policies.
These despicable companies happily take our premiums, invest them, and make a boatload of profit on our money. Many people go a lifetime without any type of claims history. But, let a policy holder file a personal injury claim, just one, and he/she become the enemy of the "good neighbor", the "good hands" people or the "fast, fair and friendly" crowd. Insurance carriers will take advantage of the system, use it to their economic advantage, and "delay, deny, confuse and refuse" for as long as they can; they will use every trick in the book to prevent payment or simple fair treatment, even to their own policy holders. Ask lawyers who handle first party litigation.
Finally, when the client is absolutely desperate, the insurance company will offer chump change and the client will often take the money to save his/her valuable assets. To avoid the chump change settlement, some clients turn to lawsuit funding companies. Thus, I and other lawsuit funders have a strong interest in justice; insurance companies and their ilk have an interest in denying or delaying justice.
The Tribune article suggests that lawsuit funding will encourage more litigation. That is utter nonsense. Lawsuit funding simply evens the odds, just a bit. It is these greedy insurance companies that encourage lawsuits; they do so by always offering inadequate compensation. They do so by making plaintiffs fight for their very lives for what is right, what is fair. They make plaintiffs hire attorneys; they cause plaintiffs to seek ways to support themselves through the long litigation process. And, through it all, they ‘delay, deny, confuse and refuse’, making plaintiffs battle for everything they get. In the battle for compensation in personal injury lawsuits, insurance companies have a significant advantage over an injured plaintiff. They will use a plaintiff’s financial hardships to their own advantage. Without financial resources, a plaintiff may be forced to accept an offer far less than case value.
Here is what the Tribune is not telling you: The “tort reform” movement (funded by big insurance, big tobacco and big pharmaceutical) is behind efforts to discredit lawyers, lawsuits, and lawsuit funding companies. The “tort reform” movement is a government sponsored “bailout” to the richest corporations in our society. It punishes victims and taxpayers. The insurance companies and their ilk, in an effort to increase their own, already obscene, corporate profits, seek to severely restrict or eliminate compensation to seriously injured and disabled people. We must do battle with them and they are well-funded (using our own premium dollars to finance the battle). Doesn’t it make sense to provide needed funding to the “David” plaintiff in his battle against “Goliath”?
While the “tort reformers” use cute phrases like “frivolous lawsuits” and “lawsuit abuse” to bully politicians and curry their favor, it is not the “frivolous” or “abusive” lawsuit they wish to eliminate. Every “tort reform” measure I have ever seen requests a “cap” or limit on recovery in litigation. Use your own common sense. What “frivolous” (synonymous with “worthless”) requires a “cap”? The reformist crowd is not seeking to prevent “frivolous” lawsuits; there are already checks and balances provided in the civil justice system for these worthless cases. It is seeking to limit access to and reduce recoveries for serious, disabling, life-changing, catastrophic injuries. That is what “tort reform” and “citizens against lawsuit abuse” is all about. It is, quite simply about corporate profits over common humanity and compassion for the injured and disabled. Big insurance and big business are looking to restrict how much of their multiple billions in corporate profits are used to pay compensation to seriously disabled people. I am talking about your premium dollars, those that you have paid to insurance companies over the years to offset injury and disability risks. If the insurance companies always did what they should, if you were truly “in good hands” or received “fast, fair and friendly” service, or could count on your “good neighbor”, why would you ever need a lawyer? Why would there be a need for the lawsuit funding industry?
Tort reform nullifies our jury system; as such it violates the constitution. Laws placing artificial caps on damages are arbitrary; the wisdom of the legislature is substituted for the collective wisdom of a judge or jury, in a “one size fits all” fashion. There is no regard to the evidence proffered in a particular case. But every case is different, how can settlement values for one be the same as another? How can the impact of an accident be the same on each person? Aren’t all victims entitled to an independent consideration of their injuries, their pain and suffering, medical expenses, their unique facts and circumstances, and a determination of fair and just compensation based on those facts and circumstances? Should a jury of one’s peers decide a case? Or should the government assess an arbitrary number?
You may be asking: Why would any state or federal legislator lend support to this nonsense? The answer should be obvious: M-O-N-E-Y! Big insurance, big business, the US Chamber of Commerce and their lobbyists are making huge political and judicial campaign contributions to provide a political remedy that permits insurance companies, large, corporate tortfeasors, and polluters to keep more of their billions, while paying less to those that they cripple, kill, make widows and orphans of, and who they inflict with disease.
The Chicago Tribune chose to condemn proposed legislation on a false premise (that lawsuit funding increases litigation frequency). Legislation of a previously unlegislated industry is usually a very good thing for the consumer. That is true in this case. Without any investigation or any discussion with anyone in the “pro-plaintiff” community, the Tribune publishes an editorial that encourages lawmakers to ‘kill the bill’, calling lawsuit funding “the next big scandal” and lawsuit funding companies “lawsuit loan sharks”. While I can handle the criticism, that doesn’t make it appropriate or less offensive. The real story, if the Tribune really wants to champion "justice" is a story of corporate greed and the abuse of our civil justice system by those with corporate power.
Watch for Part II: The New York Times
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 a personal injury plaintiff. 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, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.