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An Adrian, Michigan car accident victim’s right to bring a personal injury lawsuit

January 19, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Lenawee County news story draws controversy over lawsuit for pain and suffering, personal injury lawyer highlights importance of jury trials

When one of our attorneys was in trial last week on a serious car accident case in Lenawee County Circuit Court, The Daily Telegram (a newspaper that serves Adrian, Michigan and several cities in Lenawee County) published a story about the case. There are over 40 comments to the article as of today, including several questioning a person’s right to bring a personal injury lawsuit and recover money for pain and suffering when someone is injured because of another person’s negligence or carelessness.

These comments included thoughts such as, “people shouldn’t recover money for pain and suffering injuries” to “sh*& happens” to “personal injury lawsuits are the reason why automobile insurance costs so much in Michigan.” (Read here for the real reason auto insurance rates are so high in Michigan.)

Several people even made comments degrading to the injured person and made derogatory comments, such as “ambulance chaser,” about our attorney – even though the story indicated these are serious personal injuries, and there was nothing to suggest that the injuries at issue were not serious, or that they were frivolous in the article. Sadly, these are people who seem to have “bought in” hook-line-sinker to a new plank of the insurance company propaganda machine. This propaganda machine says no one should ever be able to sue, and if someone does, no matter how serious the injuries are, then that person and his or her lawyer are somehow not worthy of respect.

One reader posted a response to these comments that I want to share. I think he or she makes several important points, including why conservative Republicans should support the right to trial by jury and why conservative values are actually consistent with, not opposed to, the protections of our civil justice system and individual liberty.

This is what the first Lenawee County resident wrote:

“…independent treating doctors saying this poor person is permanently disabled, and insurance company doctors who miraculously find nothing and blame everything on something completely unrelated. Surprise, surprise. The point is only the jury hearing the evidence knows what the true facts are. But one thing we all should defend as Americans is the right to trial by jury, and if indeed this woman has suffered serious injury through the fault of another, and her right to life and pursuit of happiness has been reduced as a result, then it is not only fair but essential that an American jury who hears all the evidence return a verdict that encompasses the full measure of her damages and losses. That is what the founding fathers envisioned in the Bill of Rights, that is what my Republican party always stood for – individual liberty and the right to trial by jury – before it was taken over by insurance companies and big business. This jury is performing an essential American function, and holding someone who has presumably caused great harm responsible and accountable. I fail to see how throwing out emotional charged and frankly insulting language about ambulance chasers or diminishing a person’s worth or liberty is responsible. A person who has wronged another should pay the full measure of the damages they have caused. That is what we teach our children, that is what the founding fathers to this country envisioned by protecting our freedom and liberty in the Bill of Rights. Throwing out stupid or insulting names diminishes us all.”

Here’s another great comment on the importance of trials and the truth behind frivolous lawsuits:

“Here is a simple fact: Frivolous lawsuits NEVER get to trial. Judges throw out frivolous lawsuits long before a jury trial. So, the mere fact that this lawsuit is going through a jury trial means that her injuries are real and they are really caused by the crash. Otherwise the judge would have thrown the case out months ago if not a year ago.

Trials are always about value. It is a disagreement as to how much the insurance company should have to pay the injured person for their injuries caused by their client. $3 million is not a lot of money. Think about the cost of health care, think about never being able to work again. Over the rest of someone’s life, $3 million is nothing. If someone has permanent injuries, they need some protection against the future because they only get one trial. There is no do-again or do-over for people. The money is necessary to provide some protection to make sure she can get the proper medical care and peace of mind.”

Another real point from an Adrian reader:

“It is so transparent to post things on a community website to try and scare the public into actually believing that awarding an injured party money in a lawsuit will make rates go up. Insurance companies make billions from the consumers in this state BECAUSE they try to avoid paying when their obligation arises. It is sad that insurance employees would try to taint this jury. This case wouldn’t be at court if there was any question that it was frivolous. Why should a giant semi get to crash into someone and escape without paying a dime? They shouldn’t, and that’s why this case is at trial. The jury will see how this woman’s life was affected from the car accident, and I hope nobody has to go through what she has been through, and be publicly humiliated they way she is being humiliated. Again, I say, God forbid this happen to any of you who speak so cruelly. Try having your life as you know it taken away from you.”

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