American Association for Justice

AAJ_new.gifAs the world's largest trial bar, American Association for Justice (AAJ) promotes justice and fairness for injured persons, defends the constitutional right to trial by jury, and strengthens the civil justice system through education and disclosure of information critical to public health and safety. Serving members worldwide, AAJ provides attorneys with the information and professional assistance they need to serve clients successfully and protect the democratic values of the civil justice system.

The Truth About Torts

Following the Supreme Court’s influential decision in Geier v. American Honda, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has claimed that a number of new federal safety standards preempt state tort law. Meanwhile, auto manufacturers have attempted to convince state courts to dismiss lawsuits filed by injured motorists, claiming that the suits are impliedly preempted by existing safety standards. If federal courts start accepting these arguments on a broad scale, consumers will be deprived of the important protections provided by state common law.

The Center for Progressive Reform’s report, The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety, published in September 2007, presents an overview of the preemption movement that has taken root in federal regulatory agencies. It recounts how the Food and Drug Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Consumer Product Safety Commission have led a government-wide initiative to claim that new regulatory standards preempt state tort law, regardless of the background law. That paper provides background information on the constitutional underpinnings of the preemption doctrine and a brief history of the Supreme Court’s preemption analysis.

Get Out of Jail Free: A Historical Perspective of How the Bush Administration Helps Corporations Escape Accountability

In a stealth effort coordinated at the highest levels of the Bush administration, multiple federal agencies were repeatedly ordered to usurp state law and undermine consumer protections, according to documents obtained through repeated FOIA requests by the American Association for Justice (AAJ). The documents detail how helping corporations escape accountability for dangerous products has been the administration’s top priority. The FOIA documents detail a Bush regulatory strategy called preemption. In short, the Bush administration has decided that federal rules should usurp – or preempt – the rights of states to protect their citizens with stricter safety standards. In turn, consumers can no longer use the state protections when harmed by negligence or misconduct, giving total immunity to corporations instead.

Medical Negligence: A Primer for the Nation's Health Care Debate

Preventable medical errors kill and seriously injure hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Only heart disease and cancer kill more Americans. Yet despite this, much of the medical negligence policy debate has revolved around indirect factors, such as doctors’ insurance premiums. Any discussion of medical negligence that does not involve preventable medical errors ignores the fundamental problem. Preventing medical errors will dramatically lower health care costs, reduce doctors’ insurance premiums, and protect the health and well-being of patients.

The Case Against “Health Courts”

    This report evaluates a proposal to replace the current civil justice system for
compensating patients who have been injured by medical malpractice with a sys-
tem called “health courts,” in which claims that were not settled in response to an
apology and offer of settlement on behalf of providers would be adjudicated by
medically-trained decision-makers employing pre-established guidelines and
schedules.
    The report concludes that the health court proposal is ill-conceived, that it
would be unfair to patients, that it would be unlikely to achieve its objectives, and
that such of its goals as are reasonable can be achieved more fairly and with greater
efficiency under the existing civil justice system.

Pattern of Greed 2007: How Insurance Companies Put Profits Over Policyholders

    It has been two years since Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast, leaving historic levels of death and destruction in its wake. The storm caused an incredible $135 billion in damages, leaving thousands homeless, jobless and bereft of hope. Facing their darkest hour,
many of the survivors found themselves victimized a second time by an insurance industry
offering pennies on the dollar, refusing to honor many agreements, and claiming that the destruction had nothing to do with wind damage, which is covered under most policies, but was caused by floodwater, which is not. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood declared that some insurance companies even engaged in fraud, alleging that adjusters for some firms tried to trick Katrina victims out of millions of dollars in homeowner claims. 


No Basis for High Insurance Rates: An Analysis of the 15 Largest Medical Malpractice Insurers 2006 F

    Medical malpractice insurers recently filed their financial statements for 2006, known
as Annual Statements, with state insurance departments.   
     The data contained in these Statements demonstrate that the premise on which the
insurance industry based its “tort reform” campaign of the last several years--that malpractice
claims payments have been increasing--is false.  Specifically, the 2006 Annual Statements
reveal that the amount the leading malpractice insurers project they will pay out in claims in
the future has declined; that the amount they have actually paid out in claims has declined;
and that their surplus--the extra cushion they have accumulated over and above the amount
they have set aside to pay claims in the future--has increased to an all time high.  In addition,
the 2006 Annual Statements reveal that notwithstanding the record surplus and profits of
these carriers, they have generally declined to issue any dividends to their policyholders.

The Ten Worst Insurance Companies In America

To identify the worst insurance companies for consumers, researchers at the American Association for Justice (AAJ) undertook a comprehensive investigation of thousands of court documents, SEC and FBI records, state insurance department investigations and complaints, news accounts from across the country, and the testimony and depositions of former insurance agents and adjusters. Our final
list includes companies across a range of different insurance fields, including homeowners and auto insurers, health insurers, life insurers, and disability insurers.

Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse

Insurers are increasingly using tough tactics against cash-strapped consumers to boost profits, according to a new report that investigates claims data, policies, and news accounts.  The report details tactics that target policyholders, insurance companies that are engaging in these practices, and what consumers can do to prevent abuses and fight back.  The current economic turmoil, which is greatly affecting the insurance sector, will likely spark insurers to use these tactics to maximize their bottom lines.

They Knew and Failed To

Every day there is another recall or warning of a product that turned out to have design flaws or unexpected problems - a drug with an unanticipated side effect, a toy with a sharp piece that can injure a child, or a popular food product that may have been contaminated in production. These recalls and warnings are so frequent that consumers are no longer surprised. What would surprise consumers is the fact that sometimes those who are responsible for these dangers know about the problem and do nothing about it. People find it hard to believe that anybody would cover up a product's danger and then market that product to the very people it is likely to kill or injure. Yet, that is exactly what happens time and time again. The following pages contain true stories of corporations that have known their products were dangerous, sometimes deadly, but continued to push them onto unsuspecting consumers.

Pattern of Greed 2006: How Insurance Companies Put Profits Over Policyholders

    It’s been a year since Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast, leaving historic levels of death and destruction in its wake, and some in the insurance industry still haven’t made good on their promise to compensate area residents who find themselves near ruin.  While the insurance industry enjoys record profits and bulging bank accounts, too many people are left waiting for the settlements that will help them get back on their feet.  It’s no surprise.  As this report relates, the insurance industry has made a practice of collecting billions of dollars from policyholders over the years and then stiffing them in their time of greatest need.  Hurricane Katrina is just the most recent example



The Truth about Torts: Using Agency Preemption to Undercut Consumer Health and Safety

    In recent years, the Bush administration has launched an unprecedented aggressive campaign to persuade the courts to preempt state tort actions.  Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Congress may choose to preempt state law from operating, and where Congress’s intent is not clear, it is up to the judiciary to determine if Congress intended preemption.