According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the number of tort lawsuits filed in the U.S. is rapidly declining. In its analysis of data from the National Center for State Courts, the WSJ found that less than two out of every 1,000 Americans filed a tort lawsuit in 2015. That is a drastic drop from the nearly 10 in 1,000 Americans who filed lawsuits in 1993.
What is causing this decline in personal injury, medical malpractice, and other similar civil lawsuits? The reduction could be due to a variety of different reasons.
- Cost: Cost can be a prohibitive factor for people looking to file a civil lawsuit, and the costs of filing such a lawsuit today are greater than they were in 1993. It is possible that Americans simply no longer see the court system as an affordable way to remedy their disputes.
- Tort Reform: Many states, including Texas, have implemented tort reform over the past 20-years to “protect” individuals and businesses from frivolous lawsuits. This kind of reform has made it increasingly difficult for litigants to recover large damages awards which, in turn, has made it less profitable for plaintiffs’ attorneys to take the cases to court, thereby reducing the number of lawsuits that are filed.
- Shift in Public Perception: A shift in public opinion regarding personal injury lawsuits and plaintiffs’ attorneys is another possible reason for the decline. Business and trade groups have long campaigned against these types of lawsuits, claiming they hurt the economy. This long-term effort has changed the way Americans view tort lawsuits and could be causing fewer people to rush to the courthouse.
Whatever the reason, tort lawsuits now make up only 5% of all civil lawsuits filed, with contract cases now growing to 51%. This signifies a major shift in the civil litigation landscape that has implications for a wide variety of business owners nationwide.