Our unique perspective after seeing tens of thousands of lawsuits settle is, well, unsettling.
Civil justice and our sacred Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is part of the foundation of our nation’s democracy. It creates a system of justice — albeit imperfect — one that allows the most vulnerable and least powerful person in the country to take on the most powerful and influential billionaires or corporations on a level playing field. The fact that just one American can seek redress and win, without having to have resources due to the success of the contingency fee, is a powerful lever of accountability. Monsanto, Phillip Morris, Johnson Johnson, Bayer, British Petroleum, and any major multi national corporation knows too well the cost of litigation for the wrongdoing or negligence their companies create.
The power of the people to hold people and corporation accountable is a sacrosanct condition of our country, akin to the power of the collective bargaining agreement of the unions within our nation’s steel, coal, and rail industries.
Litigious or not, if you speak to the mother of a brain injured child who was delivered improperly, she will likely tell you one thing. The care of her children is the most important thing. Speak to the widow of a construction worker killed due to haste or poor safety principles, and she will tell you that the loss of her husband is the only thing that matters.
Spend a day with the parents of a 22-year-old girl, who suffers from a traumatic brain injury due to a bus accident and has spent years in and out of rehab trying to manage her pain and addiction to opiates, and who has attempted suicide twice. These loving parents will tell you of the dreams and beauty that their daughter once represented, and the shell of a life that they see daily.
I have many business owner friends on both sides of the aisle, who bemoan the torture that litigation is to a business owner. I’m here to tell you, it’s all part of doing business in America. Just like taxes, workers compensation insurance, and professional liability, there are real costs to doing business here. If there is any advice, it’s this: be thankful. Because just as these laws and system of justice may be painful from time to time, even amongst friends, it means that each of our businesses are equally safe by the nature of many of the same laws. The American dream is embodied in our laws and our system of justice, and you can’t have the opportunity without the accountability. That’s a good thing.
If there is one area of the business of law that is not well understood, it is the business of financing litigation. If Ford and GM square off in the courts, they have the resources to continue their businesses. They can also afford their lawyers to go the distance if needed to prevail on their claims.
The average American can’t say the same. Many lawsuits take families five, six, or even seven years to resolve. How well would you function on no income and no assets for seven years? Most families involved in a catastrophic injury situation get to a point with less than $50,000 in savings. Compound the loss of income, stress of recovery, and out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and you will see a very financially vulnerable family.
It is legal in our country for institutions, hedge funds, and private investors to charge these devastated families 200% interest (unless they live in Maryland, Colorado or Wisconsin). That’s not a typo. Two hundred percent interest. Of course, not all companies in the consumer litigation finance space charge that much, but the fact that it is legal is alarming.
Consumer litigation finance can make settlement much more difficult. Oftentimes, the cost of the funding plus interest becomes more than the settlement recovery amount. What’s the point of seeking justice and compensation, if the plaintiff isn’t going to see any of that money?
That’s why we’re looking to change this industry. With the lowest interest rate among all our competitors, the Bairs Foundation is aiming to offer plaintiffs an alternative that doesn’t break the bank when settlement arrives. At the same time, we’re showing the civil justice space that there’s another option that works — and it’s ethical and fair. Visit www.bairsfoundation.org for more information.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).