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It's obviously quite a popular opinion to knock American culture and legal maneuverings but there is an upside to this. Who would think to drive around in a car these days without a seatbelt on? The strength of your car seat, the existence of the headrest, airbags, and the seatbelt are all driven by lawsuits. There was an interesting article in the LA Times about this very thing, inspired by the current Toyota mess. (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-litigate14-2010mar14,0,2005316.story) Yes, vehicles are much more expensive today. That's the price you pay.
While I don't agree with the large sums being awarded plaintiffs and their lawyers (probably mostly the lawyers) and would rather see the punitive awards go to the general fund, there is some benefit in the existing system.
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