There is perhaps nothing more fundamental to our society than every individual's right to seek justice from the courts. This central concept is not only enshrined in the United States Constitution and the laws of all fifty states - it is something that we subconsciously assume to be available. In other words, the ability to hold others accountable for their wrongdoing is something that we take for granted.
In practice, however, a number of obstacles stand between an injured victim and justice. For starters, lawsuits are expensive. Even plaintiffs who possess a thorough understanding of the law and science involved in their claim must find a way to pay for fees, expert testimony and presentable evidence. To make matters worse, the vast majority of injury victims are not lawyers - they cannot be expected to know the relevant law inside and out. Neither of these big obstacles are a problem for corporations, hospitals or insurance companies.
This situation threatens to seriously undermine the ability of everyday Ohioans to effectively seek justice. One time-honored mechanism, however, currently guarantees victims' access to the courts: the contingency fee model.
When lawyers agree to a contingency fee, they put up all of the lawsuits costs up front. If the case is successful, the lawyer receives a portion of the award (generally around 25 percent) while the client keeps the rest. This arrangement guarantees that victims will be able to bring effective lawsuits, challenging even the most formidable defendants in court.
In recent years, defense-oriented interests like corporations and hospitals have supported a campaign to protect themselves from liability. These efforts, known as "tort reform," looked for ways to discourage victims from successfully suing. Because the contingency fee model is so helpful for many victims, these groups targeted contingency fee rules around the country. Their efforts included laws that limit and cap contingency fees - this strategy hopes to make it harder for lawyers to accept injury cases by imposing harsh pay cuts for doing that work.
Fortunately, the contingency fee model is still alive and well - while some rules apply in some states, Ohio personal injury lawyers are still able to help victims get to court on even footing with well-funded corporate interests.
Source: Center for justice And Democracy, "Courthouse Cornerstone: Contingency Fees and Their Importance for Everyday Americans," Jan. 2013