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The Truth about Civil Lawsuits

The civil justice system in the United States was created to compensate people who were harmed by companies or individuals. The system has been well-utilized in past decades, with ten out of a 1000 individuals filing a civil lawsuit in 1993. Since then, however, the rate of filing civil lawsuits has been on a steady decline, dropping from 1 percent to .2 percent of all Americans.

One reason for this decline may be because industries like drug manufacturers, oil companies, and insurance agencies falsely report that civil lawsuits are currently out of control. As the companies often facing lawsuits, they attempt to trick people into thinking lawsuits and the people that file them are frivolous. This obscures the truth of the matter: that civil lawsuits can give power to the individual and hold corporations accountable for their wrongful actions.

Over 850 toy products have been recalled since 1974 for causing or posing harm to children. Without civil lawsuits, parents would not be able to ensure the safety of their children. The civil justice system provides members of society with the security that they can recover physically and financially from accidents that occur during our daily lives.

Specific incidents of wrongdoing further demonstrate the benefits of lawsuits. In the 1960s, General Motors knowingly allowed dangerous cars to be sold. The gas tanks in some of their cars ran the risk of exploding in an accident. The company hid this information because it would cost them an estimated $8.40 to fix each car, but they estimated their payout for potential accidents at only $2.40 a car. The civil justice system intervened and required General Motors to improve their fuel tank performance for rear-end collisions.

In 1989, an oil tanker owned by Exxon caused a ten-million-gallon oil spill off the coast of Prince William Sound in Alaska. Attorneys worked for over 20 years in court to hold Exxon accountable for their mistake. Exxon pushed back against spending money on the cleanup but was eventually forced to clean up the spill and, therefore, reduce its environmental impact.

Civil lawsuits are a crucial part of ensuring fairness. It is imperative that, as Americans, we protect our right to civil lawsuits. These lawsuits push back against companies trying to cut corners and protect the safety of the average American.