Why $Money$ is NOT Why People Sue

Posted By: Tony Baratta | July 13th, 2018

“I am not the kind of person who brings lawsuits” is a typical statement I hear in my first meeting with a client who has suffered a serious injury or had a family member suffer death due to the careless act of another.

The kind of persons who ask me for help are interested in holding the wrongdoer accountable and to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else. When it comes to receiving compensation, my clients are not interested in a winning lottery ticket but in making sure that medical bills and lost wages won’t devastate their savings and upend their life.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a poll of those who brought medical malpractice claims for injuries caused them cited primarily 4 reasons for seeking legal help:

  1. To learn why they were injured because the medical profession would not explain it.
  2. To make sure the injury did not occur to someone else.
  3. To hold the negligent practitioner accountable.
  4. AND only as a 4th reason, to receive compensation for damages.

Our great nation has recently celebrated its 242nd birthday. Those who signed the Declaration of our Independence from Great Britain recognized the importance of civil trial by jury and made complaint in the famous document of King George’s failure to allow for Americans that sacred right: “for depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury” was one of the wrongs listed as committed by Britain necessitating our independence.

The right to a jury trial was deemed so important by our founders that it was preserved in two separate Bills of Rights in the United States Constitution, the 6th (right to jury trial in criminal cases) and the 7th (right to jury trial in civil cases).

Persons who bring personal injury lawsuits help deter careless conduct which endangers all of us. One of the main goals of a lawsuit is to deter others from dangerous acts, forcing careless actors to think twice before acting that way knowing that there will be consequences to their actions.

When we have the privilege of driving a car or truck, owning a property or are given a license to practice law or medicine, certain duties control our behavior. We have the duty to drive fully alert, to make sure our properties are safe, and to fully comply with the rules of our professions. What enforces those rules if they are broken and injury results? The only mechanism that exists for that purpose is our civil justice system and the only means to hold others accountable is through the levy of money damages for the harms caused. When safety rules, that protect all of us are broken, if action is not taken to hold that person accountable, we all suffer.

A doctor testifying for a client in a malpractice case I was handling testified that he offers opinions in these kinds of cases, when many doctors won’t because they are fearful of being ostracized by the medical profession for going against their own, because medicine is a self-regulating profession.

There is no overarching governing body in medicine which evaluates performance or ensures safety rules are followed. The only way to hold a doctor accountable for breaking safety rules that damage patients is to legally make the doctor pay in money for the damages caused. In turn, by holding a doctor accountable in money damages sends a message to the rest of the profession to be more careful, which in turn protects all of us.

Deterrence of bad conduct is the main purpose of compensation in personal injury actions. For those who say, I’m not the kind of person who sues, I say please consider that your actions will help make the world safer for my children.

Thank you for standing up for your rights and holding wrongdoers accountable.


About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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