The UK Adopts a New Ambulance Chasing Rule: Should the USA?3 min read

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Pioneering Reforms In The U.K

For decades, commentators from across the political spectrum have argued the necessity of tort reform. Nuisance lawsuits tie up court systems, limit access for more serious cases and substantially cost average taxpayers. In response to these challenges, the U.K has finally taken action to curb law firms that specialize in frivolous lawsuits. A new U.K law passed in April specifically targets attorneys known as ambulance chasers. These are questionable personal injury attorneys who exceed the bounds of prudence and proprieties.

The new U.K law absolves injury lawsuit defendants from having to pay “success fees” upon losing their suits. Losers must still pay damages and ordinary legal fees. Under the new system, success fees for winning attorneys come directly out of court-awarded compensation sums. Intended to limit nuisance lawsuits, this new rule has already made a major impact on the U.K’s legal system. According to recent statistics, the number of registered personal injury claims management firms is down thirty percent from March of last year. Since the new law has only been in place for about four months, it is fair to assume that the law will eventually have even greater effects on the legal landscape.

The Costs Of Nuisance Lawsuits

Nuisance injury lawsuits create substantial costs for ordinary people. Even those not involved in court cases are indirectly affected by these proceedings. Needless lawsuits inflate insurance premiums for millions while costing public bodies princely sums. Society must tread carefully when categorically limiting legal actions. While it is indisputable that many personal injury lawyers abuse the system, many more actively fight for the rights of victims. At their best, personal injury lawsuits are motivating forces for safer practices and policies. Only time will tell if the U.K’s new law will result in a more equitable legal system. Although early indicators are promising, it is possible that the new law is too narrowly focused to forcefully push back against the problematic growth of rent-seeking attorneys and plaintiffs.

How The U.S Can Move Forward With Legal Reform

U.S legal experts are carefully watching the fallout from the U.K’s new legal reforms. In this nation, there is a growing consensus that the legal system is overly skewed in favor of plaintiffs. U.S lawmakers would do well to experiment with lawsuit compensation reforms similar to those enacted in the U.K. In fact, it may serve well to implement reforms that affect all civil lawsuits, not just personal injury suits. Many legal commentators believe in enacting a “loser pays” system of lawsuit compensation. Under the current system, losing defendants pay for plaintiffs’ legal fees but losing plaintiffs have no such obligation. This system is contrary to the “English rule” that holds sway in virtually all modern democracies. By balancing the responsibilities of plaintiffs and defendants, the U.S can reduce nuisance lawsuits and improve equitable court proceedings for all.

Of course, lawsuit reform advocates have a long, difficult road ahead of them. With more lawyers per capita than any other nation, the United States is a difficult place to enact legal reforms. Since irresponsible personal injury attorneys are among the most visible bad-faith actors in the legal sphere, injury lawsuit reform is a cunning way to energize American tort reform.

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