Written by Lester Tate
If the walls of our law office could talk, what would they say? They would probably tell you that almost everyone who walks through our doors wants you to know that “they aren’t the suing kind.” It’s uttered as an apology; a way of explaining–as if an explanation were needed–what brings them to a lawyer’s office. Never mind that they and their family may have been rear ended by a tractor trailer, semi-truck on the interstate. Never mind that the collision sent the family on an unexpected trip to the hospital, that medical bills are piling up, that bread winners of the family are unable to work or that they’re living in pain. The first thing that they want to do is to apologize for even asking if there is any possibility of seeking justice.
In truth, no apologies are necessary. We live in a civilized nation where there are laws that protect our citizens. Those laws have set up a process by which those who have been wronged can pursue justice. In fact, the system we have is guaranteed through the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which provides for jury trials in civil cases. The right to seek justice is as important and well established as the right to vote. But you don’t hear people saying, “We’re not the voting kind.” In fact, people who don’t vote are usually ashamed that they didn’t. So, why all this shame and embarrassment over the possibility of filing a lawsuit?
The answer is that people have been conditioned to feel ashamed and embarrassed. Multi-million dollar advertising and public relations campaigns have financed the notion that people shouldn’t be filing lawsuits for decades. With Allstate, you’re supposedly in “good hands.” State Farm is a “good neighbor.” They perpetuate that message so that when you’re injured in an accident and the claim adjuster comes calling to try to settle the case with you, you’ll know who the “good” guys are and take whatever pittance they may chose to offer you. After all they’re “good” folks and you don’t want to be a “bad neighbor” in return and sue them, even though they’ve collected billions of dollars in premiums over the years just to pay such claims. In fact, these insurance companies and their lobbyists have worked hard to make sure that the law prevents jurors in personal injury suits from ever being told that the defendant has liability insurance to pay the claim. The insurance company wants jurors to think that the defendant will have to pay out of his or her own pocket.
I’m proud of the fact that in over a quarter century of trial practice, I’ve helped ordinary Georgians stand up for themselves and what’s right. And I’m undeterred by the fact that it took a lawsuit or trial to do it. As the country song says, “Justice is the one thing you can always find, but you gotta saddle up your horses and draw a hard line.” We should never be ashamed of seeking justice.