Would it surprise you to learn that situations that warrant civil justice action occur nearly every day to many people, but that none is taken? That’s the finding of research done as part of a Community Needs and Services Study performed earlier this year under the auspices of the National Science Foundation and the American Bar Foundation.

According to the study’s author, many of the situations derive out of events of everyday life involving people’s work, their finances, struggles over insurance coverage, pension rights, housing and basic care issues related to young children or elderly parents. And the author says that while perceived high cost is one reason why victims of such situations don’t turn to attorneys for help, she says a lot of them didn’t know they were facing legal problems that the courts and attorneys are prepared to address.

So how can you know if a situation warrants civil action? The first way is to not presume that your issue has no remedy under the law. If you think you have been made a victim, you have a right to seek redress and the way to find out if you have a case is to consult an attorney with experience in the kind of situation you are dealing with.

In matters involving injury such as might happen when a person slips and falls on improperly maintained property, that counsel should be sought from an attorney with demonstrated experience dealing with premises liability cases.

The Community Needs and Services Study conducted its random sampling of nearly 700 adults in an unidentified mid-sized American city during the summer and fall of 2013. The subjects were asked whether they had experienced any of a set of scenarios known to have civil justice aspects to them. Those who indicated they had encountered a situation were asked what action they took to resolve their issues.

What researchers found was that the person handled the situation on their own. Only about 22 percent of respondents said they turned to someone else, such as a lawyer, social worker, police or government agency or religious source, for help. When asked why, 17 percent said cost was a factor, but more indicated they didn’t understand their situations to be legal in nature.

The conclusion this supports is that there’s a gap in the justice system that can only be closed by a broader sharing of information.

Source: American Bar Foundation, “Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA,” Rebecca L. Sandefur, accessed Dec. 29, 2014