Many people in America take for granted our laws, our system of justice, and our rights. They don’t understand that not long ago in our nation’s history and in other countries today, the freedoms we enjoy were not and are not available. If you are tempted to complain about our legal system being slow or unfair, take a look back at history and you’ll see we have come a long way!
10,000 to 500 B.C. • In ancient times “an eye for an eye” was a widely accepted method to settle instances where one person had harmed another and the judges were in most cases incompetent, cruel, and biased. We won’t describe some of the punishments, but you can imagine.
500 B.C. to 395 A.D. • During the Classic Greek and Roman eras, the practice of bringing a companion to trial to help in a person’s prosecution or defense became the norm, and while they were not supposed to be paid for their services, they usually were anyway. The people may be thought of as the first lawyers, and in time they became specialized in understanding the rules and laws of the different cultures and geographical area in which they lived. Laws were ambiguous and were rarely applied fairly.
1490’s • As new worlds were discovered, Europeans began to export their Canon Law – based on Roman Catholic Doctrine – on new colonies they established. These laws usually favored the rich over the poor, and so if you didn’t have a lot of money, justice was very hard to come by. England, however established a system known as “Common Law” in the 16th Century and that became the foundation for most laws in North America as the British settled here. But they were still very unfair to many people.
It would be good to point out here that as legal philosophies and laws themselves advanced, criminal courts became separate from civil courts, and the concept of tort law came to exist. A tort is defined as a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to civil legal liability.
Some legal principles such as res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) became important to understand tort issues and can be described as the principle that implies “the occurrence of an accident implies negligence.”
Res ipsa loquitur is a doctrine of law that one is presumed to be negligent if he/she/it had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury even though there is no specific evidence of an act of negligence, and without negligence the accident would not have happened. Example: a load of bricks on the roof of a building being constructed by High Rise Construction Company falls and injures Paul Pedestrian below, and High Rise is liable for Pedestrian’s injury even though no one saw the load fall.
1760 to 1830 • The first industrial revolution in England saw many workers injured by improperly designed or careless operation of machinery, but the concept of paying compensation through a judgement in court had not been developed. Therefore most people were left to deal with injuries, pain, and suffering on their own.
1860 to 1940 • The second industrial revolution in the United States saw more injuries to workers and finally there were laws enacted to protect people from injuries resulting from the negligence of others. This might be seen as the beginning of personal injury law.
Modern Personal Injury Law – Believe it or not, it was a snail that ushered in the modern era of personal injury law. In 1932 the case of Donoghue vs Stevenson involved Mrs. Donoghue drinking a bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. A dead snail was in the bottle. She fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm to consumers. There was also a sufficiently proximate relationship between consumers and product manufacturers. This case was the foundation for many future decisions, and modern personal injury law was born.
Through the 1900’s many attorneys began to specialize in personal injury law because it involves many unique and complicated issues. People started to move about the country and the world faster and more frequently, computers have made a major impact on society, and while medical care has advanced, the costs have skyrocketed. The goal of a good personal injury attorney is to see that a serious injury doesn’t drastically alter a person’s life as they know it, but rather try to return them to the life they had before.
Today, a network of excellent law schools in the United States graduates lawyers who understand modern personal injury law and ethics. The American Bar Association as well as local and state bar associations keep watch on attorneys so the public is assured competent, ethical representation and our courts are staffed with judges who are held accountable by voters or by other elected officials to ensure equal justice under law, as inscribed on the United States Supreme Court.
The Lawyers at Lazarus and Lazarus are very proud to represent people who have been injured because of the carelessness, negligence, or malpractice of others. We have developed a sterling reputation for giving our clients competent, personalized service and we never give up until we have exhausted every means of seeing our clients receive the maximum compensation under the law for their injuries, pain, suffering, and lost wages. Please call us at 954-356-0006 for a confidential and free consultation if you have any questions.