Lawmakers pass compromise bill on personal injury cases

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed law Thursday that allows personal injury and death victims who come to a verdict to charge interest on money they receive from the court to incentivize settlement.

Governor JB Pritzker vetoed an earlier version of the bill, which was approved by both houses at the Lame Duck meeting in January.

The current version of the bill, Senate Bill 72, will now go to Pritzker’s desk for his signature after passing through the house last week.

Senate President Don Harmon, who sponsored the current version of the bill, said the purpose is to improve the playing field in personal injury and death cases where the defendant – or the institution sued – is usually a hospital or health care provider . In most cases, the insurance company representing the sued company will pay for the defense in court.

Meanwhile, Harmon said the plaintiff – or the person suing the company – has often lost income while he or she awaits the verdict.

“This just tilts the scale a little in favor of an immediate settlement of a deserving claim (personal injury or wrongful death). It promotes settlement,” said Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park.

SB 72 reduced the interest amount from the previous version of the invoice from 9% to 6%. It would only apply in personal injury and death cases that result in a judgment. It happened to the Senate Thursday, 37-17.

Illinois currently has a 9% post-judgment interest rate that is charged in cases where the court has passed a verdict. The only prejudice interest under applicable law in Illinois is a 5% interest rate that applies to damages in specific cases other than cases of personal injury or death.

Like the previous version, SB 72 would not apply to cases resolved through out-of-court settlements.

If the case results in a judgment in favor of the plaintiff, but the defendant has reached a good faith settlement within the first 12 months that was rejected by the plaintiff, the amount offered will be deducted from the amount of the judgment, which is interest-bearing.

Neither would the bill apply to lawsuits filed against the state, a local government entity, school district, community college district, or any other state entity.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, an organization made up of attorneys who represent plaintiffs in court, often in personal injury and death cases, campaigned for SB 72 to be passed.

Larry Rogers Jr., president of the Trial Lawyers Association, an attorney representing injured plaintiffs at Power Rogers LLP in Chicago, said the bill was a compromise between the various stakeholders involved.

“The problem this bill addresses is again the ‘delay, denial and non-payment’ perspective, which was suggested due to the lack of prejudice interest,” Rogers told the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.

According to the earlier version of the bill, interest would begin to run as soon as the sued company or person “received the infringement from the time of the incident itself or received written notice,” the bill states. This would have meant that the interest would have arisen before the injured party had filed a lawsuit in court.

According to SB 72, interest would accrue as soon as the lawsuit is filed.

Harmon said the bill is not retroactive and, if signed by the governor, would go into effect on June 21.

Assuming bias interests, Illinois would join 46 other states that currently have some form of that type of interest.

Minority leader Dan McConchie, a Republican from Hawthorn Woods, said comparing the prejudice interest proposed by Illinois to that of other states is misleading, as many other states limit the amount of total damage in personal injury and death. There are no such damage caps in Illinois.

“Additionally, this legislation will increase costs for small business owners in Illinois who are simply trying to get people back to work in our communities. The increases in costs caused by President Harmon’s bill will be passed on to consumers or enforced reductions in health products and services.” of retail products, services and most importantly jobs in Illinois, “McConchie said in a written statement.

SB 72 is opposed by a number of hospital, business, and insurance groups including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois College of Emergency Physicians, the Illinois Defense Attorney, the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, called on Pritzker in a statement following the passage of the bill by the Senate to veto the legislation, “what the legal costs for manufacturers, hospitals and doctors who were in the US that will increase dramatically. ” Front lines during the pandemic. “

Pritzker’s veto message also acknowledged that the proposed 9 percent interest rate went further than other states like Michigan or Wisconsin, which “offer a more reasonable interest rate structure by tying the interest rate to market conditions like the federal benchmark rate” a flat rate. “

The previous version of the bill, Pritzker said in his veto message, “would be burdensome to hospitals and healthcare professionals beyond the national norm, potentially increasing patient health care costs, and discouraging doctors from practicing in Illinois.”

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