Numerous legal organizations recently hosted screenings of Hot Coffee across Alabama. The HBO documentary, which first debuted at the internationally acclaimed Sundance Film Festival in 2011, focuses on the current state of accident and injury litigation in America. The film also discusses states' legislative efforts to allegedly limit and/or hinder an injured individual's ability to recover personal injury damages, a movement known as "tort reform."
The film highlights the story of the infamous McDonald's spilt coffee lawsuit and argues that the media misconstrued the actual facts of that case. The documentary also discusses various other personal injury cases and analyzes the effects of the media, statutory damage caps, and arbitration agreements on such cases. Several legal commentators and judges from Alabama are interviewed in the film.
Despite increased media attention regarding tort reform efforts, the majority of personal injury lawsuits are not significantly affected by the so-called movement. For instance, the most substantial example of tort reform comes in the form of arbitration agreements found in contracts between litigants. These agreements often include terms about litigation that are unfavorable to the individual bringing a lawsuit.
Most accident and injury cases do not involve contracts. Without a contract, no arbitration agreement exists. For example, a driver injured by a tractor trailer rarely has a contract with the truck driver regarding an accident. Thus, car crash victims are allowed to present their case to a jury and may recover a favorable jury verdict or settlement without facing any "tort reform" obstacles.
If you are injured by another's wrongful conduct, schedule an appointment with a personal injury lawyer in the Birmingham, Alabama area. Also, be mindful of Alabama's two year statute of limitations for accident claims.