The American Association for Justice, a trial lawyers group, has launched a grass roots campaign to highlight the issue of medical errors and the importance of malpractice litigation.

The group has created a Web site (www.98000reasons.org) that urges visitors to contact Congress and tell them to “put patients first.” The Web site states that the 98,000 people who die each year from preventable medical errors is equivalent to two 737 jetliners crashing each day.

“Trial attorneys see first-hand the effects that medical errors have on patients and their families,” according to the Web site. “The best way to have fewer medical malpractice cases is to reduce the number of medical errors.” The Web site also includes a series of videos from families of patients who died or patients who were severely injured by medical mistakes.

A “take action” button on the Web site directs visitors to a petition page that can be electronically signed and automatically e-mailed to the Senate. The petition argues against setting up “medical tribunals” or special courts to hear malpractice cases. These medical courts, the petition argues, would deprive litigants of their seventh amendment right to a jury trial.

“Any attempt to limit an injured patient’s right to their day in court should be voted down,” the petition states. Instead, the petition suggests that patient safety measures should be the focus of legislation, rather than tort reform. “Under NO circumstance, does medical malpractice tort reform belong in the health care reform bill,” the petition reads. “Please, don’t sacrifice patient safety to achieve reform.”

The group has purchased online advertising in the Washington, D.C., area to promote the site, but may move to on-air ads if tort reform becomes an issue in the health care reform bill.