Were you hurt by a distracted or drunk driver? Did you slip in a store and hit your head? Are you a deckhand, offshore worker or floorhand who has suffered a work-related injury but are afraid to speak up and file a lawsuit?
Many injured people are hesitant to talk to a lawyer about their injury. Maybe you are worried about appearing “sue-happy” or feel there are too many lawsuits in this country. But are there?
Are we lawsuit happy?
A new book entitled In Praise of Litigation by Alexandra Lahav takes a deeper look at the idea that Americans are lawsuit crazy.
What Lahav found was actually the opposite: that part of what makes America great is that litigation- the process of being able to sue another person, your doctor, or company whose negligence injured you- is essential for not only for democracy to function but for rule of law to work.
Lawsuits, even big, class action suits, can lead to major social change. Even if the suit is not won, the social ramifications for the exposure of the wrong are positive. For example, lawsuits are part of the reason that laws were changed so that children were not required to work. Lawsuits are the reason workers are treated fairly and are provided limited hours and safe working conditions.
Our legal rights are our power
A lawsuit is one of the ways that each of us can participate directly in our government. A lawsuit is a forum for “reasoned, evidence based argument,” according to writer Spencer Drew. As Lahav states, “The right to sue itself is a political right, somewhat like voting or jury service.” Lahav goes on to say that even if we lose the right to vote, we retain the right to sue. Because we are still a person, we are still a citizen, we still have a voice and agency.
The unchecked power of big industry
Lahav makes an interesting point in stating that without the individual’s right to sue big companies would run amok. These companies could maintain unsafe, unsanitary and unfair work environments in secret and the individual worker would be powerless to do anything about it. Without our individual right to sue, the power balance would tip evermore in the favor of big business, once again leaving the individual worker to bear the brunt and weight of the burden.