Yes, Virginia, There is Auto Insurance Fraud

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

By Marc Dittenhoefer

For years now the debate has been raging in the public media as to whether or not there is systemic fraud in the field of automobile accident and No-Fault insurance. Industry spokespersons have long been pointing to "phony" lawsuits and illegitimate claims pressed by felonious claimants and their dishonest lawyers and doctors, all with the purpose of invading the insurance policies that some of America's largest and most profitable corporations sell to drivers at exorbitant rates. These industry mouthpieces have all the while been saying that it is the `fraud' running rampant throughout these types of cases that is the driving force behind the rise in auto insurance rates to their present unconscionable levels, and that all that needs to be done to restore balance to the world of auto insurance - as well as fairer rates to the consumer - is to crack down on this fraud.

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American Arbitration Association Breaks Its Promise Not to Hear Pre-Dispute Arbitration

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

By Paul Bland, Staff Attorney, Public Justice

Although most people haven't heard of it, they have a big stake in the integrity and honesty of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA").  The reason is simple: it's rapidly gaining more and more power over Americans.  More and more big corporations insist that their customers and employees sign mandatory arbitration agreements taking away their right to go to court as a condition of getting goods or services or as a condition of getting or keeping a job.  And of the private corporations that are increasingly replacing the American civil justice system, the AAA is the most prominent and largest.

To allay the concerns expressed by many consumers, employees, legislatures and courts, the AAA has repeatedly promised that Americans need not worry about the growing power of arbitrators, because the AAA will purportedly exercise great restraint in the exercise of its power.  Alas, talk is cheap.

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Two Victories for People Concerned About Equal Justice in America

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

by Laura K. Abel& David Pedulla of the Brennan Center for Justice

Last week marked two important victories for the civil legal services community and those who care about the rights of low-income people.  The United States House of Representatives voted to substantially increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), and the Governor of New York, for the first time ever, allocated funding for civil legal aid in his Executive Budget.  These events are good news for low-income people, who are often left without the legal representation they need in high stakes civil matters.  Legal services truly improve the lives of low-income people and make society as a whole a better place to live.  For example, researchers have found that the increased provision of legal services was one of the key factors in the decline in domestic violence in the 1990s.  

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Juries as Democratic Participation

Cross-posted from Tort Deform

Juries, especially civil juries, instill some of the habits of the judicial mind into every citizen, and just those habits are the very best way of preparing people to be free.... They make all men feel that they have duties toward society and that they take a share in its government. By making men pay more attention to things other than their own affairs, they combat that individual selfishness which is like rust in society.... [The jury] should be regarded as a free school which is always open and in which each juror learns his rights, . . and is given practical lessons in the law. .. I think that the main reason for the ... political good sense of the Americans is their long experience with juries in civil cases." - Alexis de Tocqueville

Tort "reformers" would have you believe that America is plagued by runaway juries that result in "jackpot" justice based on the jurors' random and emotional whims about a particular case.

This framing of juries is inaccurate. Juries, although imperfect, do a reasonably good job of evaluating civil claims.

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Podcast Series: Arbitrating Away The American Dream (Vol 1)

Cross-posted from Tort Deform: The Civil Justice Defense Blog

Arbitrating Away the American Dream (Vol 1): One Conservative Grandmother's Battle With Mandatory Arbitration

Mandatory arbitration? What does that even mean? How can it affect me?

Right now, if you have a new home, new car, car lease, credit card, bank account, cell phone, storage room, utilities, or an exterminator you more than likely have one. Since you probably don't know what it is, and since you probably have one, it might make sense to learn more about the devastating effect that this type of agreement can have on your life.

Jordan Fogal, an award winning author whose personal struggle with her builder and her mandatory arbitration contract was featured in a Mother Jones Magazine article, has tirelessly struggled to bring attention to the public about the dangers of mandatory arbitration agreements.

Ms. Fogal was working on her new book of memoirs until it was interrupted by the deterioration of her brand new home. She then began her fight against the mandatory arbitration agreements that protect bad builders and create devastating personal tragedies for homebuyers.

For the past three years her efforts have been to inform the public about bad builders and the injustices rampant in Houston. After learning that this problem was not just happening in Houston, Jordan expanded her efforts to engage the entire nation.

Listen in to this first podcast as Jordan tells her cautionary tale about the devastating impact that a mandatory arbitration agreement had on her life, her changed view of America, and the accessibility of the American dream for us all.

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