There's no doubt about it: personal injury lawsuits have a bad reputation. The worst thing about this perception is that it might prevent those who really deserve compensation from even seeking it. Not all lawsuits are based on greed or attention seeking, so read on to learn more about why you should not let unsubstantiated information lead you to make the wrong decision.
Third-Hand Misinformation and Frivolous Suits
While the media (including social media sites like Facebook) gains readership with reports of improbable legal matters, the truth is seldom known. When you hear about lawsuits, keep in mind that almost anyone has the ability to file a lawsuit in court. Nearly all frivolous cases never see the judge's opening gavel because the courts won't waste their time on them.
Stella Liebeck and Her Coffee
Almost as popular as any lawsuit in the media was the case of Stella Liebeck. This 79-year-old woman made the news back in 1992 when she sued the McDonald's corporation for personal injury. The cause of the injury? Hot coffee. The press had a field day reporting on this example of what seemed to be a frivolous lawsuit. After all, if you purchase hot coffee, you ought to realize that you must be very careful drinking it.
The Truth About the Lawsuit
By the time this case was resolved, most people had lost interest in it. It's only natural; legal cases do take some time to move through the court system, particularly when you are suing a major corporation like McDonald's. It was reported that Stella Liebeck would be paid 3 million dollars as a result of her burn injury. As you might guess, what was reported and widely known shows almost no relation to what really happened.
What Actually Happened
Stella was visiting the local McDonald's with her son at the time of the incident. Instead of being in the drive-thru, she was actually parked when the spill and burn occurred. The burn to Stella's upper thigh area happened when she removed the lid and spilled the 190-degree coffee. That is not just hot coffee, that is more than boiling-hot coffee. The burn caused third-degree burns on her that were so severe that she had to be hospitalized and needed skin grafts to repair the damage. It also seems that Stella's case was one of many previous cases against McDonald's for the very same issue. Additionally, Stella initially only wanted McDonald's to pay for her medical expenses and they refused. Stella never saw the 3 million dollars. She garnered about $600,000 and medical expenses took some of that.
The Stella Liebeck case is a perfect example of why you should never allow public opinion to influence your decisions. Speak to a personal injury attorney to learn more.