I'd always assumed that the extraordinary litigiousness of American society said something deep about our culture. It must be that we expect to have more control over the chance events in our lives than people from other cultures do; that we accept less readily that sometimes bad things simply happen and no one's at fault; that we're always looking for easy ways to make big bucks--if not through the state lottery, then through the lottery of the civil court.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
But a German national who's spent time in the U.S. and knows something about this sort of business professionally proposes to me an alternative explanation. In Germany (and throughout Continental Europe) governments limit lawyers' fees and don't allow class action suits. This both reduces large awards, and prevents such rewards from bringing big bucks to those who make them happen. German lawyers, in other words, have much less incentive to chase ambulances, or to represent people who want to sue for huge demands.
Were German lawyers to have the same incentives as their American counterparts, my German contact assures me, they'd have no trouble finding large numbers of injured clients eager to act as litigiously as we do.