Personal Responsibility Versus the Myth of Litigiousness in America

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Time and time again you hear it “The USA  is the most litigious society in the world”.    The claim is that we Americans sue one another far more than any other country.  Or, we are just “sue happy.”  This is a BIG LIE.  The evidence shows is just not true. For example,  studies show “Only 10 percent of injured Americans ever file a claim for compensation, which includes informal demands and insurance claims.  Only two percent file lawsuits. ”  And “[a]cademics generally concede there is no evidence that “frivolous” lawsuits are a problem.”

Personal injury litigation for car accidents and other claims is about holding people personally responsible for their actions.  Our society accepts that basic value as a fundamental piece of the social contract.   It never fails that the people promoting the big lie of an overly litigious society are those who will benefit the most if they can escape personal responsibility for their negligence.

The use of this myth is  focused against personal injury (tort) cases but the reality is National Center for State Courts data shows that  “tort cases represented only 4.4 percent of all civil caseloads.

The reality is the court system balances out the playing field for all Americans and makes ure that those who cause harm are held personally responsible foe their actions that case an injury.  And that Americans are relatively ordinary in their willingness to utilize the Court system when compared to people in other countries.  That American use the court system in a manner consistent with other countries was recently reinforced by a book called  “Exploring Global Landscapes of Litigation”, (Baden-Banen: Nomos, 1998), in it author Christian Wollschlager notes that when reviewing the litigation rates per 1,000 people  the US is in the middle of the pack when it comes to litigation rates.  As described in a post,  in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee  Theodore Eisenberg, a Professor of Law at Cornell University explained  that Wollschlager found the following litigation rates:

Country Cases per 1,000 Population

• Germany 123.2
• Sweden 111.2
• Israel 96.8
• Austria 95.9
• U.S.A. 74.5
• UK/England & Wales 64.4
• Denmark 62.5
• Hungary 52.4
• Portugal 40.7
• France 40.3

Christian Wollschlager, Exploring Global Landscapes of Litigation Rates, in Soziologie des Rechts: Festschrift fur Erhard Blankenburg zum 60. Geburtstag 587-88 (Jurgen Brand and Dieter Strempel eds., 1998).

Similarly, other US scholars have found

American judges seem to handle routine contract and tort disputes as well as their peers in other wealthy countries.   Americans do not file an unusually high number of law suits.  They do not employ large numbers of judges or lawyers.  They do not pay more  to enforce contracts.  And they do not pay unusually high prices for insurance against routine torts.

Are Americans More Litigious? Some Quantitative Evidence by J. Mark Ramseyer & Eric B. Rasmusen (2010).

The actual evidence shows Americans are not unusual in their use of the courts to enforce their rights and make sure that bad actors are held personally responsible for their actions.   Don’t let the insurance company propaganda that filing a claim is somehow wrong taint our history of making sure that companies and people who do wrong are held responsible for those wrongs.  If you have any injury issues in Idaho call us for a free consultation about your rights.  We represent people all across the state.


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  1. Very interesting info!Perfect just what I was looking for!

    • amber witterholt on April 3, 2012 at 4:07 PM
    • Reply

    This is what I needed for my assignment for my paralegal class. Thank you.

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