It’s the big businesses that have the most to lose – and the politicians that those businesses buy and pay for – who are so often telling the public about the alleged “epidemic” of “frivolous” lawsuits purportedly crippling our justice system. They make it sound like the U.S. is filled with con artists promiscuously filing phony personal injury claims to “hit the jackpot” or “win the lottery.” These con artists supposedly force innocent small businesses to spend vast amounts for a lawyer and legal fees – just to survive.

You shouldn’t believe it. What these businesses and their spokespersons are handing us are not the facts. Instead, they’ve created a narrative that simply isn’t true. If you heard about the man who sued the topless dancer for whiplash – after her large breasts knocked him in the head – that case was dismissed. So was the lawsuit from the fellow who sued a beer company because bikini-clad models didn’t magically appear when he opened a bottle of brew.

Sure, frivolous lawsuits make the news, but that’s because they stand out from the thousands of routine and legitimate personal injury cases that courts handle every day. If a lawsuit is frivolous, it’s thrown out of court at once. Attorneys don’t take on frivolous lawsuits because they’re seeking cases they can win, and since most personal injury claims are handled on a contingency basis, a lawyer who takes phony lawsuits will soon be looking for another line of work.

CAN THOSE BRINGING “FRIVOLOUS” LAWSUITS BE PENALIZED?

Personal injury attorneys can also be penalized for filing frivolous claims. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and similar rules enforced in each state require personal injury lawyers to conduct a due diligence investigation regarding the factual basis for any personal injury or product liability claim. Because a frivolous claim wastes the court’s and the defendant’s time and money, sanctions may be imposed by a court upon any attorney who brings a frivolous claim. The attorney’s law firm may even be sanctioned, or in some cases, held in contempt.

Pennsylvania attorney Daniel Evans has written, “[W]hen a judge calls an argument ‘ridiculous’ or ‘frivolous,’ it is absolutely the worst thing the judge could say. It means that the person arguing the position has absolutely no idea of what he is doing, and has completely wasted everyone’s time. It doesn’t mean that the case wasn’t well argued, or that judge simply decided for the other side, it means that there was no other side. The argument was absolutely, positively, incompetent. The judge is not telling you that you were ‘wrong.’ The judge is telling you that you are out of your mind.”

 

While attorneys seek the cases they can win, injury victims who file personal injury claims are seeking justice and sometimes trying to prevent the same suffering from happening to others. It’s not about “winning” anything a victim doesn’t deserve or isn’t entitled to under the law. Of course, some people will do crazy things for money, but no ethical attorney will represent a plaintiff in a personal injury case unless it’s a real case, there’s been a real injury, and justice requires someone to be held legally accountable. Those who push the “frivolous lawsuits are everywhere” narrative are usually trying to help someone escape accountability for negligence.

WHY ARE LEGAL PENALTIES FOR WRONGDOERS SO IMPERATIVE?

Think about it. Without legal penalties, would polluters stop polluting? Would alcoholics stop drinking and driving, or would thieves stop stealing? Of course not. We’d all eat poisonous foods, drive around in death traps, and breathe polluted air. A world without penalties for wrongdoing is a place where no one would want to live. Personal injury claims hold the guilty accountable and bring justice to personal injury victims.

And because they work on your behalf, personal injury attorneys are the targets of polluters, food and drug makers, automobile manufacturers, and others who are seeking to cut corners and limit your rights. There is no “explosion” of frivolous lawsuits. In fact, over the last ten years, the number of personal injury claims being filed has declined by 24 percent, and personal injury awards have declined by 18 percent. There’s nothing frivolous about a lawsuit when you’ve lost an arm or a leg – or a loved one.

Everyone knows that in the 21st century, life can be dangerous – and especially in Southern California. A run to the convenience store, a visit to the doctor or pharmacy, or a night out could lead to a catastrophic traffic accident, medical malpractice, food poisoning, or a number of other undesirable scenarios. Even at home, you could be injured by poisoned food or drugs or a defective electrical appliance.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE INJURED BY NEGLIGENCE?

Of course, anyone who is injured by someone else’s negligence in southern California should discuss his or her legal rights and options with an experienced Orange County personal injury lawyer. Injury victims must act quickly because California’s statute of limitations restricts the amount of time they have to file a claim. Those who can prove they’ve been injured by negligence are entitled by law to complete reimbursement for their medical expenses, lost wages, and all other injury-related losses and expenses.

Do you really need to retain counsel if you’ve been injured? Not in every case, and especially if no one is at fault, like the injuries that happen in natural disasters. But if you’ve been injured or if you are injured in the future, and you don’t know if another person is or is not legally responsible, at least discuss the situation with an experienced Orange County personal injury lawyer. You’ll get honest advice, and you might even be told that you have no case, or that pursuing a claim won’t be worth it.

Always speak with an attorney before accepting any settlement for a personal injury, because you will very probably be offered a sum that is significantly below the actual value of your personal injury. When you’ve really been injured, when you have real grounds for a personal injury claim – and you have the proof – filing a claim is still your choice, although the right lawyer can provide important insights and guidance. If you haven’t really been injured, however, don’t even try to file a frivolous lawsuit. It won’t go anywhere.

By: Chris Purcell

Attorney Chris Purcell is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara College of Law. He exclusively represents the victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Chris was part of the team that won California’s largest-ever wrongful death judgment – a $150 million verdict for a family devastated by a tragic trucking accident. In 2011, he received the Top Gun Award given by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association.