Access to Health Care
Texas was once the Wild West of medical liability lawsuits. Junk lawsuits were driving doctors from their practice, leaving areas of Texas with little or no access to medical care. Now, thanks to common-sense civil justice reforms, Texans have access to record numbers of new doctors and many are practicing in historically underserved parts of the state. And, after years of decline, the ranks of medical specialists practicing in Texas are growing, including obstetricians, orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons and pediatricians. Texas has become the standard bearer for civil justice reforms that improve access to health care. But some personal injury lawyers are relentless in their efforts to undo reforms or create new ways to sue. Texas has come a long way, but the threat to progress continues.
Making our Courts More Fair
Good laws are only part of the equation. We must also have good courts that uphold and apply the law as written. Not too long ago, Texas courts were among the worst in the nation, attracting junk lawsuits from around the world and exposé stories by 60 Minutes. Personal injury lawyers pumped millions of dollars into judicial campaign coffers and bragged about their ability to win outrageous jury awards in certain Texas courts. Today our courts are much improved, but there is still work to be done.
Good Judges Matter
Judges make decisions that affect many aspects of our lives. Yet our judiciary is the least understood branch of government. Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse is committed to helping voters learn more about statewide and local judicial candidates. While few of us will spend significant amounts of time in the courtroom, we all are affected by the judges elected to our courts. In addition to administering justice for the truly injured, judges can spare us all the cost and consequence of lawsuit abuse by tossing baseless cases. In short, good judges matter.
Civil courts in the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Gulf Coast – long considered Judicial Hellholes – are inching out of infamy as the nation’s worst judicial jurisdictions with a slight improvement to “Watch List” status, according to an annual report from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF). Despite the move to the “Watch List,” these areas are prone to unpredictable decisions that could easily result in backsliding. In fact, after a Texas judge offered no reason for ordering a retrial after a defendant won a case, a local newspaper explained, “Even when defendants win in Jefferson County, the scales of justice somehow turns them into losers, it seems.” (Source: Editorial, Our Settlement Machine, Southeast Texas Record, July 26, 2008, at http://www.setexasrecord.com/arguments/213909oursettlementmachine)
Encouraging Jury Service
Our justice system doesn’t work without people to serve on a jury. The right to a trial by jury is one of the most important freedoms Americans enjoy. Yet in some parts of Texas, as many as 80 percent of those summoned to report for jury duty simply don’t show up. At Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse we believe jury service is one of the best weapons we have against lawsuit abuse. Not only is jury service a responsibility, it is a privilege we want to encourage all eligible citizens to embrace. By returning an impartial verdict, jurors make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed.
Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse is a watchdog organization that helps citizens to protect themselves by becoming savvy legal consumers. By exposing questionable personal injury lawyer tactics like misleading advertising and lawsuits based on junk science, TALA helps citizens to recognize lawsuit abuse when they see it. TALA also issues a Legal Consumer Guide (link to the latest version) to help people understand their rights and to ask the right questions while hiring a lawyer. The TALA Legal Consumer Guide also encourages Texans to ask their doctor, not a lawyer, when faced with an injury or health-related questions. TALA’s role as a consumer watchdog is critical in keeping those who would abuse the civil justice system in check.
Improving our Laws, Defending Reforms
Texas has made great strides in improving the state’s legal climate, but we must be vigilant in protecting the progress we’ve made. Personal injury lawyers are unrelenting and push hundreds of proposals that would create new ways to sue and undo civil justice reforms in Texas.
TALA is always at the ready, challenging efforts to take our state back to the days when Texas was the country’s lawsuit abuse poster child with a broken legal system that invited junk lawsuits from around the world.
We’ve fought proposals that would have limited citizens’ rights, undone reforms, unleashed a flood of questionable lawsuits and threatened access to health care. We’ve also worked to improve our laws and help citizens be wise legal consumers and active participants in our civil justice system.
In Texas, we’ve come so far in creating a legal system that is based on common sense and fairness. It’s been a long, hard battle to improve our state’s civil justice system and every legislative session proves that now is no time to rest.
Ambulance Chasing 101 - Barratry
Barratry, more commonly known as “ambulance chasing,” is illegal in Texas, but many people are unaware and fall victim to this unethical practice. Some lawyers go so far as to offer people cash to represent them…while still in the hospital. Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse encourages citizens to put the brakes on ambulance chasing by becoming educated legal consumers. TALA’s print and television advertising campaign is designed to inform Texans of their rights, to educate them about how to report illegal lawsuit solicitations, and to urge lawmakers to crack down on unscrupulous personal injury lawyers who exploit Texas families.
Civil justice reform has directly benefited Texas’ economy and dramatically improved our access to health care. TALA’s ongoing “Reform Works” campaign shines a spotlight on the important benefits of legal reform and reminds Texans that we must ward off attempts by some personal injury lawyers to return Texas to the days when lawsuit abuse ruled this state. Reform works and it is worth protecting.