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AAJ DISPELS TORT REFORM MYTHS

The American Association for Justice has released a new primer separating the myths about the need for tort reform from the facts. Among the myths dispelled are "the number of lawsuits filed is skyrocketing." In reality, AAJ cites statistics from the United States Department of Justice revealing a massive decrease in tort lawsuits. The statistics show that while 3,600 tort trials were decided in U.S. District Courts in 1985, there were less than 800 in 2003, a drop of 79 percent. AAJ also cites statistics showing the same trend of decreasing lawsuits in state courts.

Another myth AAJ proves wrong with facts is that "insurance rates are skyrocketing because of lawsuits." While insurance companies often claim they need to raise your premiums due to the rising costs of lawsuits, AAJ cites statistics showing that in 2007 insurance companies reported a near-record profit of $61.9 billion. The bottom line - your higher premiums have nothing to do with lawsuits. Moreover, if tort reform is enacted do not count on your premiums going down. In 2005, while pushing for tort reform in Illinois, American Insurance Association spokesman Dennis Kelly admitted to the Chicago Tribune that "We have not promised price reductions with tort reform."

AAJ's primer comes at an important time, as Congress considers an extreme bill for reforming medical negligence liability and taking away patient rights. In light of this AAJ released the following statement: "According to the Institute of Medicine, as many as 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, the sixth leading cause of death in America. The bill introduced by House leadership (H.R. 5) not only ignores patient safety, but also imposes severe, one-size-fits-all caps on damages that patients can seek when injured by medical negligence, defective drugs, medical devices, or abuse suffered in nursing homes. It even extends this cap to health care providers that intentionally harm or kill patients, as well as insurance companies that refuse to pay just claims for medical bills."

The bottom line is that while claiming lawsuits are out of control may be a convenient way for insurance companies to increase their premiums and profits, the facts simply do not support the insurance industry's claims. When a person or company acts carelessly and needlessly causes others to be injured or killed, those who suffer harm have a right to be compensated. Taking away our right to recover compensation from those that break the safety rules and hurt us represents a direct threat to public safety.

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