by Lucy Wyndham
The USA is the most litigious nation in the world, with one lawyer for every 300 citizens. Compare this to France, who have just one lawyer for every 1,403 people. It can be easy to bash lawyers, but there is no doubt that they are essential for ensuring justice, especially for America’s minorities. However, could this litigation obsession actually be holding back improvements in public safety? The fear of a lawsuit is potentially preventing technology companies from making big leaps forward. There are arguments on both sides.
The Benefits of Litigation
Law firms work tirelessly to help victims of crime and are necessary for a free, law-governed democracy. Litigation ensures a fair trial and offers the best chance for justice to be done. Of course, if you have been caused injury or loss, you should seek compensation via the court system. These structures exist to protect the vulnerable by preventing exploitation and punishing negligence. The suggestion that litigation can make society dangerous is based more on unintended negative consequences than it being a direct result.
The Potential Prevention of Progress
As well as the abundance of lawyers, this country also has plenty of health and safety firms. They provide technology to prevent accidents. However, the two groups are somewhat in contest with each other. A safety technology company holds a responsibility for safety and if they get it wrong, they could be subject to a lawsuit. As a result, they may be overly cautious in releasing new technology to the public.
For instance, consider a manufacturer responsible for inventing and building underwater swimming pool alarms. These are designed to detect if a child is at risk of drowning and alert someone who can save them. Before they can be brought to market, however, they must be approved by a safety product testing firm. The firm may determine that the new technology will definitely save many lives. However, they cannot guarantee that it will prevent all child fatalities. Given current litigation culture, they will know that a single death could result in them being sued. This could prevent them approving the life-saving technology.
Ways to Move Forward
America is founded on entrepreneurship and innovation. This is just as important in the health and safety sector as it is in in any other industry. Of course, these companies must be held accountable if they release products which fail to prevent injury and death. This is a clear sign of negligence. However, the obsession with taking legal action in each and every case may be halting leaps forward in safety technology. We need to be more willing to accept honest mistakes. This will reduce the fear felt by good and careful companies, allowing them to make the necessary progress to keep us safe as a society.
Litigation has an important role to play in our society, protecting the vulnerable from corrupt corporations. However, too much obsession over legal action may be doing more harm than good. We need to free up honest companies to make technological progress, without turning to a lawsuit every time.