By Albert Aguilar
Engel’s The Myth Of The Litigious Society was a well-written and well-argued narrative. The statement that stuck out most to me was that “[t]ort law not only signals new sources of harm, it also plays a key role in cultural construction of injury.” Engel, 179. The reason this statement stuck out so much was because until reading it, I never realized tort cases were the source of many legal definitions for injuries, and in turn what society views as an injury. Furthermore, Engel states, “the very concept of an injury can shift over time with new understandings of appropriate social behavior and acceptable risks.” Engel, 179-80. In other words, as times changes, so do societal views and sometimes the views of the law so that everything can be at par with the times; a prime example of this being how sexual harassment use to be viewed as common place in the work place, but now is a tortious act.
Before reading The Myth Of The Litigious Society, my view of the United States civil dispute resolution system was that even with the well-known negative view on personal injury law, that it was commonplace in American society to take advantage of the chance to claim your benefits after getting injured. After reading The Myth Of The Litigious Society, I realized the disabling effects of an injury, especially trauma, tends to cloud the victim’s thoughts and reduce the chance they’ll demand compensation from the injurer and seek help from an attorney. Engel, 172. Furthermore, because of this occurrence, the victim relies only on their own resources, their friends and family, government welfare programs, and their private insurance to cover at least part of their medical expenses, but that leaves their pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, loss of future earnings, and the burdens imposed on their caretakers uncovered. Engel, 169-70. The new information that I gained through reading this book made me realize this country needs a strong reform, not so much legally, but more so in the form of societal bias towards the legal system.
If given magic powers to reform the United States tort system, I would focus not on the tort system specifically, but more so on American society itself. Throughout his book, Engel reminds us a major part of the issue with the American tort system is society’s negative view of recovery for injuries and society’s negative view of attorneys. Through the use of my magic powers, I would revoke society’s negative view on injury victims claiming what they lost from the injurer, thus in turn, allowing injury victims to recover without running the risk of associating themselves with the powerful negative stereotypes our society currently holds. Furthermore, I would use my magic to turn advertisements by personal injury firms from “car salesmen like pitches” into advertisements more able to project positive messages on society, thus making injury victims more likely to seek recovery or to be persuaded by their loved ones to seek recovery. Realistically how I would go about this is through doing a mass advertisement campaign through both print media and social media throughout the United States shining a positive light on the field of personal injury law and the idea of injury victims recovering for their injuries, as well as working with Hollywood to make sure all law movies shine a positive light on attorneys and the victims they represent.
Regarding the feasibility of my “magical” approach, it is quite possible that changing the public image of attorneys and injury victims recovering for their injuries would work. The main reason for my saying this is the tort reform movement in the '80s and '90s showed that through investing heavily in public relations and targeted advertisements the legal community can help shape the narrative about recovery and personal injury law in order to replace to current dismissive mindset about both topics. Engel, 193. Though the movement in the '80s and '90s didn’t accomplish nearly as much as it could have, further pursuit could very well achieve a positive change in public views within due time.