Not many Americans are pleased about the frivolous lawsuits that make international headlines from time to time. Have you shaken your head disapprovingly after reading about parents who sued the school for their child’s bad grades? Or, after hearing about a burglar who sued a homeowner for injuries sustained during an attempted burglary? If that’s not enough, consider the case of the convicted felon who sued himself for breaching his own religious convictions.
These cases don’t represent the American spirit; they point to excesses and outliers, especially when condensed into headlines-only form. However, before you tell a lawyer joke or mock the legal system and the people who keep it running, let’s consider what kind of country America might be if personal injury lawsuits didn’t exist.
What if an employer could knowingly send employees to work on dangerous electrical lines, knowing that no matter how many employees died, there was always another person who would take the job? What if your neighbor kept a dog that had maimed and killed several children in your neighborhood, and there was nothing you could do about it? What if the rest home where your grandmother lives had a secret policy of withholding food and water from residents who required anything more than standardized care and attention?
Does this sound like an America where you’d like to live? Personal injury lawsuits have been designed to keep us safe from individuals and bureaucracies, which, otherwise, might exploit Americans. Lawsuits are a civilized way of maintaining a safe society without relying on militias, tribal lords, posses, or violence to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Countries in which the legal codes are not honored are considered corrupt. The six countries with the lowest rates of corruption are Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore, and Switzerland (source). The United States ranks 25th out of 190, after countries such as Chile, Bhutan, France, Uruguay, and the United Arab Emirates.
The fight to repair political and legal injustices in our own country continues. Until all minorities and under-represented citizens receive the same legal treatment as majority groups, then we cannot be finished or satisfied. Corruption and human rights abuses are not just happening on the other side of the globe but in our own neighborhoods and cities.
Our legal system is not perfect, but it has made great progress and continues to evolve. It is designed to catalyze needed change while protecting citizens and companies against frivolous lawsuits. A frivolous lawsuit is a technical term for any lawsuit that is filed with the “intention of harassing, annoying, or disturbing the opposite party” (source). Frivolous lawsuits may also refer to lawsuits in which the plaintiff (the person who has been injured) knows that there is little or no chance that the lawsuit will be successful.
An experienced attorney can advise you about how to proceed if you feel that a frivolous lawsuit has been brought against you. One of the firsts areas of interest might be the area of negligence.
Negligence is a legal theory or a legal standing that must be established before a person or company can be held legally responsible for the harm that someone else is claiming to have suffered. Proving negligence is required in personal injury or wrongful death cases.
In order to proceed with a case, the plaintiff (the person who was injured) must establish the following four elements in order to prove that the defendant (the person who is allegedly liable) acted negligently:
- Duty – the defendant had a legal duty to the plaintiff
- Breach – the defendant breached or failed to fulfill that legal duty
- Causation – the defendant acted (or failed to act) and, as a result, caused the injury
- Damages – the defendant was indeed injured as a result of the defendant’s actions or inaction
If the plaintiff cannot establish each one of these elements, a lawsuit will not proceed. If a lawsuit is indeed frivolous, then negligence will not be established, and the case will fail.
Element #1: Duty
Legally establishing duty between a defendant and a plaintiff is connected to the nature of the relationship. A doctor has the duty to provide a patient with an established standard of care. However, that same doctor does not have the duty to provide care to the victim of a car accident on a nearby street. A frivolous lawsuit may attempt to falsely link the defendant to an injury that was outside the defendant’s line of duty.
Element #2: Breach
Establishing breach as part of a lawsuit requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant did not act as a reasonably prudent person would act in similar circumstances. They must show that a relationship existed between the defendant and the plaintiff, and the defendant breached the established and expected code of conduct in dealing with the plaintiff. A frivolous lawsuit may claim that the defendant should have acted in ways that are beyond expectation.
Element #3: Causation
The plaintiff is required to show that the defendant’s action or inaction resulted in the injury under discussion. Even if the defendant was negligent or careless in their actions or inaction, it must be shown that this negligence directly caused the injury. A frivolous lawsuit may attempt to link the defendant’s action or inaction to unrelated events resulting in injury.
Element #4: Damages
The plaintiff is required to prove that the defendant’s action or inaction resulted in real injury. A frivolous lawsuit may be filed by someone who is faking or exaggerating the injury. The plaintiff must provide evidence that the injury, pain, and suffering are authentic and verifiable.
If you live in the greater Las Vegas area and feel that you are being harassed by a frivolous lawsuit, seek out an experienced accident injury lawyer in your area. He or she will hear your case and advise you about the best path forward.