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The Ethics Of Suing Businesses For Personal Injuries

Personal injury lawsuits have something of a negative reputation, at least among certain parts of the public. There’s this idea that suing businesses for physical and emotional damages is frivolous, an attempt to get something for nothing and the only reason lawsuits go after the biggest business involved is because they have the deepest pockets.

And it’s true enough that the upper management and the stockholders of a major company generally don’t have any direct connection to the conditions or the circumstances that caused the personal injury. But what they do have is an indirect connection, and they have a certain amount of responsibility for what goes on no matter how many layers of management there are between the site of the injury and the CEO. So while it may not make sense on the surface of things to sue the biggest company, there are some very solid reasons why doing so is a good idea.

 1. “The Buck Stops Here”

President Harry Truman put a sign on his desk that said “The buck stops here.” This referred to the saying “passing the buck,” which meant pushing the blame for a mistake onto someone else. But the buck stopped at Truman’s desk because, as president, he was ultimately responsible for everything the executive branch did.

Leaders can’t control everything done by everyone who works for them, but they do bear responsibility for what happens because they can choose who gets what job and they can set policies and direct their employees. And that’s not just a philosophy about leadership: it’s the reason why citizens can sue corporations for the actions of their employees.

The leadership and the stockholders have the power to punish or fire employees who cause personal injuries and set company policies to prevent injuries from happening. And while they can ignore a suggestion box or a strongly worded complaint, if you hit them in their wallets they will sit up and listen.

2. Compensating The Plaintiff Matters

When you hear about how much money a jury awards a plaintiff in a personal injury case, you’re only hearing half the story. All that money isn’t going straight to an offshore bank account nor used to buy a new house, it’s going to pay off the big medical bills the plaintiff accrued during his or her recovery and to make up for lost income. Emotional damages are a little vaguer, but even then the jury uses solid numbers to decide the cost. Punitive damages that only exist to punish the defendant are very rare.

That’s why it’s important for plaintiffs to get the money they ask for: they’re using it to pay debts and get back to a status quo they never would have left if it weren’t for the accident. But in a lot of cases the person most directly responsible for the accident isn’t much better off than the plaintiff, if at all. That means they can’t pay the plaintiff without ruining themselves or else paying in installments too small to really help. So by including the corporation the person works for in the lawsuit, it’s more likely that the plaintiff will get the money he or she needs to pay for medical treatments and regain a living wage.

3. Big Companies Carry Liability Insurance

For a lot of big corporations, lawsuits are common enough that they carry liability insurance. That means plaintiffs rarely even deal with the companies directly, and instead, they have to deal with an insurance provider staffed by professionals who do their best every day to settle claims for the smallest amounts they can. That’s not an advantage their employees get. Combined with the second point, this means suing the employees has a better chance of getting a bigger settlement, but suing the company they work for has a better chance of getting bigger payments from a smaller settlement.

4. Juries Can Assign Fault

Fault in a personal injury case is very rarely all-or-nothing. Judges and juries in tort cases can assign blame in terms of percentages, so a plaintiff might be half responsible for his or her own injury and only get half the money he or she asked for. They can also assign fault between different defendants, requiring each one to pay a separate amount, so including as many defendants as possible gives them the most leeway.

Personal injury lawsuits target big corporations for some very good reasons and not just to make the potential settlements or awards as big as possible. So if you live in southwest Florida and you’re dealing with a personal injury, give the law offices of , Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, and Walsh a call and we’ll help you figure out how to get the compensation you deserve.

Stephen M. Fernandez developed a strong belief in justice and fairness in public policy while earning his Political Science degree prior to attending law school. Since joining the Florida Bar Association in 2004, Stephen Fernandez has combined his background in public policy, business administration and civil law to serve as a highly effective trial lawyer fighting for Florida's injured, working hard every day to make sure his clients get what they are owed.

The Ethics Of Suing Businesses For Personal Injuries

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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