We often hear that America is an overly-litigious society, that we’ll sue for any reason. Many states have gone as far as to place caps on personal injury settlements in order to supposedly stem the flood of personal injury lawsuits. Idaho, for instance, has placed a cap on the amount of non-economic damages a person can seek in a personal injury case. The cap is $250,000 and applies to damages such as pain and suffering, but the cap does not apply to damages such as medical bills, lost wages, or other rehabilitation costs.
Despite these serious measures to preclude certain awards in litigation, the question remains—is America really a society that will sue for any reason?
Lawsuits do make up the majority of the civil litigation that occurs in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that in the U.S., Americans sustain about 31 million injuries each year. This number only accounts for personal injury where the individual required the help of a doctor. Over 160,000 people die from injuries each year.
With the number of injuries in the millions, the expectation would be that personal injury lawsuits would also be in the millions. The truth, however, is shocking.
According to the Legal Finance Journal, in 2005 there were only about 16,000 personal injury trials in the U.S. Of course, many personal injury claims are settled outside of court. But this low number of cases brought to court, especially in light of the 31 million Americans seriously injured in a given year, highlights the reality that America is far from an overly-litigious society.
Instead, it seems that millions of Americans who could seek personal injury lawsuits choose not to do so.
In many cases, Americans may choose not to litigate due to a lack of information. Victims may not be aware that they have a valid case. Many Americans choose to shoulder medical and rehab expenses on their own when many courts would place the blame and the bill on a negligent party responsible for the accident.
Another reason Americans choose not to litigate or seek compensation for their personal injuries may involve their failure to seek proper medical care in the first place. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2013, 14 million Americans were uninsured. Individuals who are uninsured may be reluctant to seek medical care when they should. Injuries such as mild traumatic brain injury are often not detected during routine ER care, and uninsured Americans may not be aware that their insomnia, mood changes, memory difficulties, or balance problems may be the result of a personal injury sustained in an accident.
According to Jack Setters, a bankruptcy attorney, many Americans who have been injured worry that the cost of litigation might leave them bankrupt and destitute if they don’t win. What they don’t realize is that lawyers don’t receive money unless you win. The Law Office of Johnson & Lundgreen offers free initial consultations for personal injury victims in Meridian and Boise, Idaho. We take contingent fees, meaning we don’t get paid unless you win. If you’re one of the 31 million Americans who have been injured this past year, don’t suffer in silence.