Through a campaign of deceit, corporations and the insurance industry have successfully transformed injured victims into greedy liars.
hey paint a picture of plaintiffs with dollar signs in their eyes and personal injury lawyers who are only too happy to manipulate our justice system for maximum financial reward. What big business lobbyists won’t tell you is that multimillion-dollar verdicts are rare. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the 2005 median award for plaintiffs who won monetary damages in civil trials was $28,000. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of all plaintiff award winners were awarded $1 million or more.
Tort reform advocates also argue against the jackpot punitive or exemplary damages. Such damages are imposed in addition to compensatory or physical injuries. Punitive damages serve as a sanction for behavior that is judged to be particularly reckless. Big business, unwilling to be held responsible for their mistakes, have demonized punitive damages and spread the myth that juries are handing out multimillion-dollar awards left and right. Actually, punitive damages are rare. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that in 2005, punitive damages were awarded to only 5 percent of plaintiffs in civil trials. A group of legal scholars convened by the Supreme Court also found that:
- Juries award punitive damages infrequently.
- Punitive damage amounts have not increased in the past several decades with the exception of adjustments for inflation.
- The amounts of punitive awards rendered by juries and judges are similar.
Meanwhile, the majority of punitive damage lawsuits involve businesses suing other businesses, often over trademark infringement or contract disputes. Many of these cases have even been viewed as frivolous. It seems as if businesses are fine with punitive damages as long as they’re the plaintiffs.
Even if juries were more likely to impose outstanding awards, judges can exercise supervision through post-verdict motions or on appeal. In other instances, post-verdict settlements can reduced or abandon punitive awards without judicial intervention.