Is it moral to file suit when you are injured?

This can be a tricky question and many people have strong feelings about this.  Some of the concerns come from the Bible such when Jesus said:  “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you...” Finally, Jesus said: “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also.” (All these are from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.)  Similar teachings are found in other sacred texts.  These are hard sayings.  While none of us ever entirely lives up to these lofty teachings, we at this firm are serious about doing our best.  So where does that leave us when we have been wronged or injured?  While we can never answer that question for anyone else, we do have the following thoughts:

 

First, Jesus did say one thing that directly relates to lawsuits when he said: “if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”  (Matt 5: 40).  In other words, if you do get sued, Jesus said that you should be generous to the plaintiff, and give even more than he asked. 

More importantly, it seems to us that Jesus was very concerned about the rich exploiting the poor.  He spoke of it often, calling the rich hypocrites for turning their backs on those that are poor, vulnerable, or needy.  Jesus spent his time with the poor and with children, and he repeatedly made it a point to teach that anyone who follows His teachings will try to achieve some measure of social justice.  In fact, after His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus’ followers made sure that there was no poor among them, and took special care to make sure that the wealthy believers gave their money to the Church so that those who were less fortunate would have what they need.

So what about us?  We live in a world where insurance companies are multi-billion dollar, for-profit organizations. They take advantage of individuals and families all the time. We believe that Jesus would want us to protect these vulnerable people, to represent them, and to make sure that they have food, clothing, and shelter (and other things they need).

It seems to us that Jesus was concerned with His family’s financial well-being.  Early in His ministry, when his mother ran out of wine at a wedding, Jesus made sure she had it.  Also, just before His death, he assigned to John the responsibility to take care of His mother. Likewise, many parents (and grandparents) feel the important moral obligation to care for, protect, and provide for their family.  And, when you have your ability to work and provide taken, even in part, by someone else, your moral obligation to provide does not go away.  So there is a good argument that your moral obligation to your family is to now do your best to recover compensation for that loss so your family can have the things they need. 

In terms of the process of seeking compensation, Jesus said that we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.  This suggests that Jesus was OK with us using civil processes to achieve justice.  Significantly, the Apostle Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to have his day in court, and even appealed to Caesar himself. 

To us, the particular process you use to seek compensation (filing a claim out of court or using the court system) is not the real issue.  The real issue lies in your heart and in your actions -- the way you treat people.  Perhaps you can ask the following questions before you decide whether to file a lawsuit:

 

Am I using this claim or lawsuit to get even or exact revenge? 

Am I honest with everyone involved?

Do I treat others, even the people on the other side, with dignity and respect?

Do I wish evil on the people who caused my injury? 

If I win my case, am I going to use the money to bless my loved ones or do something else worthy?   

 

If you can answer these questions with a clear conscience, then we see no problem with seeking justice at the courthouse.  In fact, as lawyers who represent real people with real problems, we feel that it is our sacred duty to protect individuals, including the poor and vulnerable, from wealthy forces that have so much power.

In short, we believe that you can love your enemies and bless them that curse you while, at the same time, seeking fair compensation for your injuries.