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   January 2011   |  Subscribe   |   

In This Issue
10 Conversations for Justice
Web Resources for the Facts
• WANTED: Your Story Ideas

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10 Conversations on Your Rights
Promoting Civil Justice One Neighbor at a Time

Real change in public opinion starts with conversations. So the next time you’re at a party, your kid’s soccer game, or even the annual family reunion, consider the following responses when someone says:

  1. "It's about time the legislature pass tort reform."
    Truth: “Tort reform” is a code word for laws that limit the rights of people injured by defective products, toxic chemicals, medical malpractice, and other wrongdoing. “Tort reforms” upset centuries-old law that balances the rights of the individual against the advantages of those with power and influence.

  2. "Our courts are swamped by personal injury lawsuits."
    Truth: The number of personal injury cases filed in Iowa has dropped 29 percent since 2002, and accounted for only 2 percent of all civil cases filed in 2008. The growing majority of civil cases involve contracts, many involving debt collection by businesses. (Download complete statistics here.)

  3. "Frivolous lawsuits are ruining America."
    Truth: When a preventable, careless medical error forces a child into a wheelchair for life, it's anything but frivolous, especially if it's your child. The reality is judges throw out lawsuits without merit, and lawyers can be disbarred for filing them.

  4. "Runaway juries award millions in suspect damages."
    Truth: Juries take their jobs very seriously. Plaintiffs actually win more cases in front of a judge (65 percent) than a jury (53 percent), and the median award was only $27,000, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice.

  5. "Capping damages on medical malpractice cases would cut the skyrocketing costs of health care in this country."
    Truth: A 2004 Congressional Budget Office study (download) found that medical malpractice cases account for less than 2 percent of America’s annual health care bill. Capping damages has done nothing to hold down the cost of health care, while deaths and serious injuries from medical mistakes continue to occur at alarming rates.

  6. "There is a doctor shortage because of malpractice suits."
    Truth: Statistics from the American Medical Association don’t support that statement. The total number of doctors caring for Iowans has increased nearly every year since 2000. Nationally, the number of physicians for every 100,000 Americans has doubled since 1965.

  7. "Lawsuits are killing small businesses in America."
    Truth: In a study conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business, 3,500 small business owners were asked to rank the problems they face. “Costs and Frequency of Lawsuits/Threatened Suits” ranked 65th of 75, barely beating out “solid and hazardous waste disposal.” (Download report.)

  8. "Personal injury lawyers charge outrageous hourly fees and leave their clients with nothing if they win."
    Truth: Civil justice attorneys do not charge by the hour. Instead, their clients pay on a “contingency fee basis.” This allows people who cannot afford hefty legal fees to retain an accomplished attorney without paying anything up front. Only if the attorney and the client win the case does the attorney receive a percentage of the money collected.

  9. "Schools are canceling recess because of litigation."
    Truth: School districts across the country are almost universal in blaming the elimination of recess on the need to meet requirements for teaching and testing hours (read story).

  10. "And now no one will volunteer to coach Little League because they worry they might be sued."
    Truth: The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 gives immunity to volunteers of nonprofits in the course of their charitable work.

WANTED: Your Story Ideas for 2011
Check out our 2011 Editorial Calendar, let us know what you think, and win an iPod shuffle for the best story idea.
You Should Know Podcast
Experts talk about the issues featured each month in You Should Know.

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