Now here’s a curious thing. Trial lawyers, it’s well known, care more than almost anyone else about pain and suffering. They spend their days feeling the pain of people crushed in car crashes, maimed by callous manufacturers, poisoned by reckless food and drug makers.
The greedy car makers may not care, the greedy hospitals may not care, and the greedy insurance companies certainly don’t care — but the trial lawyers care deeply, deeply, deeply. And I want you to know, it’s not the money they care about.
When a trial lawyer says he feels your pain, he doesn’t mean he feels excited by the 33% plus expenses he’ll get from the settlement, or the 40% or 50% he’ll get if it goes to trial. Sure, he likes the money. He never said he didn’t. But that’s not why he chose personal injury law. He went into this field because he cares about people.
Indeed, when the right to sue for pain and suffering is threatened, trial lawyers put up their own hard-earned dollars, fighting for victims everywhere — like Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath. In California, they put up millions last March to preserve the current auto insurance system. Yes, California lawyers (on both sides) make $2.5 billion a year from that system, but that’s not why the trial lawyers fought to preserve it. As they told us over and over again, it was because they care about the little guy’s pain and suffering.
(Seriously, many trial lawyers do take great satisfaction in fighting for justice for the little guy. One need only read Jonathan Harr’s gripping A CIVIL ACTION to see that side of the story.)
So here’s what’s curious:
In California and Arizona last month, there were ballot propositions to allow medical use of marijuana to relieve the pain and suffering, and nausea, experienced by cancer patients and many others.
Perhaps you saw the related segment on 60 Minutes. It raised the whole issue of whether people should be kept in terrible pain rather than prescribe currently illegal drugs to relieve it. One car-crash victim on the 60 Minutes segment was in such agony after the state medical board cut off his painkillers that he made a videotape explaining he would rather die as a result — and killed himself the next day.
Pain and suffering is real.
Yes, there were reasons a thoughtful and compassionate person could oppose the marijuana initiatives (e.g., California’s required no written prescription). But a lot of thoughtful and compassionate people supported them, too. Key backers included international financier George Soros and auto insurance CEO Peter Lewis, who put up $500,000 each. And a majority of voters in both states voted YES. Both initiatives passed.
So you’re thinking, hey: maybe an auto insurance executive put up half a mil for this, but the guys who must really have ponied up big are the trial lawyers. After all, they have a track record of enormous generosity to politicians and ballot initiatives they support, and they really care about pain and suffering.
So how much did trial lawyers contribute to the California and Arizona campaigns to legalize medicinal use of marijuana to ease that pain?
That’s right: Not a penny.
Maybe Christmas Eve would be a good time for trial lawyers to undergo a Scrooge-like conversion and consider policy issues based not on what’s in it for them, but what’s best for those who are most seriously injured.
Well, I can dream, can’t I? It’s Christmas!
And may yours be merry and meaningful.
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History is a vast early warning system.~Norman Cousins
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