The most common question we’re asked at Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) is ‘How do these trial lawyers get away with the abuse?’ It’s accomplished through a complex, always changing, cycle of lawsuit abuse. The basic anatomy of the lawsuit abuse cycle is fairly straightforward.
Personal injury lawyers invest dollars in political candidates friendly to their aims and objectives. In fact, in a recent statewide report from CALA found that California’s personal injury lawyers spent more than $22 million on political contributions and lobbying lawmakers in Sacramento between January 2013 and June 2016. Once these financially incentivized candidates are elected to office, they are pressured to pass new legislation favored by the trial bar. With new laws in place, advertising campaigns are deployed to lure unwitting plaintiffs into suspect lawsuits. Those same attorneys then utilize their well-crafted loopholes in the law to target susceptible business owners. Facing overwhelming fiscal exposure (often several million dollars) for violating a technicality in the law, the business settles the lawsuit for less than it would cost to fight in court. The cycle temporarily comes to a close for that one business, until they’re targeted by another lawyer down the road.
One of the tricks personal injury lawyers use to pass new legislation is to convince legislators and the public that their new law is in the best interest of the consumer. In fact, the California trial lawyers association even uses the name Consumer Attorneys – so it sounds nicer and more trustworthy.
For example, earlier this year CALA members worked hard to help stop a change in arbitration laws. As we explained at the time, under arbitration agreements, should we encounter a problem, cases are decided by a neutral arbiter rather than a judge or jury. These agreements make it easier to rent a car or get a credit card – and make resolving a dispute faster and cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going to court.
If your mobile phone service is accidentally interrupted, you just want the phone working again ASAP. However, trial lawyers want you to file suit, often with hundreds or thousands of others in a class action suit. It allows them to collect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, while you receive a check in the mail for $0.99 – they win, and we all lose. Arbitration focuses on making consumers whole, and trial lawyers hate it because there’s no big pot of gold waiting at the end for a consumer win.
Legislation is not the only place they invest their time and dollars. Personal injury lawyers also spend millions on lobbying legislators and regulators to keep bad laws in place. This type of cash extraction causes good businesses to leave the state, with good paying jobs in tow. The good news is that we’re hot on their trail, standing watch, exposing, and stopping many of the attempted new tricks. With your help we’ll be able to break this heinous cycle of lawsuit abuse in all its forms.