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Holding Businesses Accountable: Attorneys vs Regulations

Regulation Isn’t Working – That’s Why We Need Lawsuits

One thing many Republicans and Democrats seem to agree – at least those who own businesses – is that American businesses are overly burdened by excessive regulation. They believe that too many government mandates don’t demonstrate a measured increase in safety, accountability, or whatever other lofty goal they were intended to meet.

Candidate Trump campaigned on his disdain for regulations. President Trump backed up his campaign promises on January 30, 2017, when he issued an executive order mandating that for every new regulation issued by an executive department or agency, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination. Many criticized the order as broad and indiscriminate. Even if there are too many regulations, pundits argued, it didn’t follow that such a large percentage of our existing regulations are wholly unnecessary.

Those who are concerned about worker and consumer safety, the environment, and public health, believe fewer regulations will result in businesses choosing profits over safety. They fear the burdens of deregulation will be placed on the backs of average citizens, the majority of whom are not business owners. But to the individuals and businesses for whom those regulations increase costs and decrease profits, little value comes from them and if it does, it is at too great a cost. With fewer regulations and presumably weaker enforcement of those remaining, who is going to keep us safe?

The trial lawyers, that’s who.

Regulations didn’t stop the Ford Motor Company from putting exploding Pintos on American roads in the 1970s; trial lawyers did. Ford knew it had a problem with its fuel system in the Pinto. It knew that implementing a new, safer, design would cost $11.00 per car and result in 180 fewer deaths. Ford conducted a cost v. benefit analysis and found that the company’s estimated cost for the deaths its vehicles caused was $49.5 million, but the cost of making the car safer would exceed $137 million. Based on the numbers, it was in Ford’s shareholders’ financial interest to keep those dangerous vehicles on the road. (Believe it or not, that sort of cost v. benefit analysis was not only legal, but favored for many years.)

Until personal injury lawyers started filing lawsuits, that is.

Trial (or “tort”) lawyers represent injured persons against the individuals and businesses who have hurt them through carelessness and, sometimes, intentional acts. (Like choosing profit over safety.) Personal injury attorneys hold the responsible parties accountable for the harm they cause; in our civil justice system, the only way to do that is with money.

No attorney can go into a court room and ask a judge or jury to restore his client’s health, mental well-being, or to simply make his heart stop hurting. Instead, the only thing our civil justice system allows is for monetary compensation to repair what’s been broken and when that’s not possible, demand the full value of what’s been taken.

The Ford cases brought to light the idea that human life cannot be quantified like a widget or a unit. It could not be adjusted away like an accountant’s journal entry. These lawsuits made it clear to businesses that human lives matter.

The Ford Pinto cases and others like them resulted a change in the behavior of manufacturers- and in additional regulations. Now, one might think that regulations will work to prevent a repeat of that behavior because regulations are government enforced, and non-compliance can shut down a business, right? (We know lawsuits work because everyone pays attention when you get into their pocketbooks.)

Wrong. That is because rather than keep us safe, regulations have become the business of bureaucracy. Many people make their livings developing, implementing, enforcing, and even challenging regulations. Safety should not be political, but sometimes the political climate says enforce them; sometimes it says look the other way.

Lawsuits, on the other hand, have little to do with the political climate. Personal injury lawyers fight for lives every day, regardless of which political party is in power. And, because big money pays out on lawsuits, businesses pay attention to them.

Huge corporations, giant insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce – all of these powerful interests and their legions of highly-paid attorneys and lobbyists work hard to limit the ability of injured people to be made whole by the people and companies that harm them. These businesses and special interests want unfettered freedom to look towards profit, not safety. Every year there are more attempts to justify the tired old cry for “tort reform,” which is just a fancy way of saying “putting up as many roadblocks as possible to keep the people who ruined your life from being responsible for it.”

Regulations sound good in theory, but in practice, they’re a perennial mess. Trial lawyers, not regulations, are the only ones holding corporate giants accountable for the harm they cause. We – personal injury attorneys- are the Davids taking on the Goliaths of the world. We can only do that because of you – the American juror. You are the ones who, with your verdicts, ensure that products are made safer and that human lives aren’t treated like numbers on a spreadsheet.

Call us today if you’ve been injured. Fasig & Brooks (850) 583-9409