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Plaintiffs would be awarded 9 percent prejudgment interest on all successful personal injury and wrongful death claims if a bill signed by the Illinois Legislature becomes law. The bill, which calls for interest to start accruing on the date the defendant learns of the injury (whether from written notice or from the incident itself), has sparked a lively debate between the plaintiff and defense bars. While plaintiffs’ attorneys say the law would accelerate settlements and discourage delay tactics by defendants, defense attorneys counter it would unfairly amplify their clients’ liability.

Existing laws

Currently, Illinois does not award prejudgment interest in tort actions for personal injury or wrongful death. The state’s statute imposes only post-judgment interest, also at the rate of 9 percent, which begins accruing on the date of judgment. If Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the bill into law, it will become effective immediately. In pending cases and future cases in which the defendant was notified of the injury before the law’s effective date, prejudgment interest would be calculated annually from the date the law takes effect through the judgment date. The new law would not impact cases that are settled before trial and it would not apply to cases against government entities.

The reaction

The plaintiffs’ bar lauded the bill, saying it’s long overdue.

“The historical absence of prejudgment interest in Illinois has incentivized defendants and insurers to delay addressing meritorious injury claims,” Larry R. Rogers, Jr., President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, penned in an op-ed that ran in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin last month. Defendants benefit from delaying payments, earning interest on money that should have been paid to plaintiffs in a timely fashion, he added.

Meanwhile, Rogers wrote, “For a plaintiff who has suffered a life-altering injury, incurred medical expenses, or even worse, lost a loved one who was the family breadwinner and provider, delays compound their injury and loss.”

Critics of the bill include the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), which encouraged its constituents to contact the governor to urge him to veto the bill.

“Prejudgment interest statutes are punitive in nature and are meant to harm defendants instead of simply making the plaintiff whole again,” the group wrote in its lobbying campaign materials.

As ISMS pointed out, delays during civil litigation frequently occur for reasons outside a defendant’s control.

“Additionally, the clock starts on the date the defendant learns about the injury, not when the case is filed,” the group said. “In medical malpractice cases, it could be two years or more before the case is actually filed. This has been further exacerbated by COVID-19, which has dramatically slowed civil proceedings.”

In a letter to the governor, the Illinois Defense Council (IDC) pointed out that, in many situations, the bill would impose interest on damages, such as future medical care costs, that have not even been incurred yet.

“As a consequence, this bill would serve to coerce defendants to unreasonably settle simply to avoid the potentially draconian effects of this bill’s onerous provisions and deprive defendants of their right to a jury trial,” the group wrote in its open letter.

Further, the IDC complained that the bill in its current form was passed less than 48 hours after being introduced, without allowing a notice period and opportunity for those who would be affected to comment.

Laws in other states

Most states have some form of prejudgment interest available for plaintiffs who succeed at trial in tort and/or contract actions. Of those states, many place certain restrictions on prejudgment interest in tort cases, such as prohibiting it for future or punitive damages or limiting the accrual period. Interest rates range from a percentage point above prime to 12 percent, according to a 2019 report by White and Williams LLP that explored prejudgment and post-judgment interest laws across the nation.

The takeaway

If the Illinois bill becomes law, plaintiffs and defendants across the state will need to factor the additional interest that would be added onto any award when weighing their options regarding settlement versus trial

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Case Results

WE KNOW HOW TO WIN

CASE: Client was injured by a drunk driver. As a result of the motor vehicle accident, client was rendered a quadriplegic and needed a life care plan.
Outcome: $9,600,000

CASE: Against Insurance company for failure to pay for property damage after a gas and fire explosion.
Outcome: $1,600,000

CASE: Medical malpractice for failure to diagnose a descending aorta aneurism, resulting in death.
Outcome: $1,300,000

CASE: Neck and back injuries from car accident. Client had ongoing symptoms and needed injections for attempted remediation of pain.
Settled for $485,000

CASE: Client was injured in a 2 vehicle collision. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, concussion and multiple injuries to the neck.
Outcome: $6,000,000

CASE: Client was in her car and was T-Boned by a commercial vehicle. Her cerebral spinal fluid leaked and she suffered a concussion and traumatic brain injury with neck and lumbar (low back) injuries. Her neck injury caused radiating pain, numbness and tingling in her arms.
Outcome: $3,400,000

CASE: Client was driving on a rural road when another car crossed the center line and caused a head-on collision in the snow and ice. Client did physical work for a living. Both knees were injured, along with a neck injury.
Outcome: $2,300,000

CASE: Client was driving on South Parker road when another vehicle rapidly changed lanes and rear-ended the client. That vehicle was cited for careless driving. The collision caused a concussion with traumatic brain Injury. Client missed time from work and had a positive correlation between brain scan and neuropsychological test results.
Outcome: $950,000

CASE: Client was rear ended by a dump truck, was then knocked forward and hit another vehicle. Client had a concussion with traumatic brain injury. Client underwent a brain scan which showed hypoperfusion, correlated with her concussion symptoms. Client suffered neck injuries and injuries to her low back.
Outcome: $650,000

CASE: Client was rear-ended. The mechanism of injury from the forces in the collision caused her neck injury and at the same time, damaged her organs inside her throat. Client had swallowing and choking issues.
Outcome: $1,250,000

CASE: Client was in a motor vehicle accident. Both injections in the neck rendered some temporary relief. The Injections were transforaminal epidural steroid injections. Surgery was recommended on the lumbar (low back). The low back was injured by the forces in the collisions.
Outcome: $933,000

CASE: The client was driving in her car and was rear-ended thereby causing injuries to her lower back and neck. Client also suffered a concussion. Client had to undergo facet injections multiple times, through multiple procedures. Client also had cognitive issues which required cognitive training and therapy.
Outcome: $400,000

CASE: Client was entering a highway from an on ramp and was rear-ended by a commercial van. Client tested positive for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and failed conservative treatment. Client underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgey, which involved removal of the first rib to attempt to relieve pressure in the thoracic outlet. Client also suffered a back injury.
Outcome: $750,000

CASE: Client was injured by a drunk driver, who crossed the center line of the road. Client underwent multiple surgeries and could not work. Client was late 40s and needed a modified life care plan.
Outcome: $750,000

CASE: Client was rear ended by a tow truck driver who was a diabetic. The diabetic at fault party was a non-compliant diabetic and claimed he had a syncope episode, and was “blacked out”. Client had a preexisting back condition known and the forces from the collision aggravated, or made worse, the preexisting back condition in addition to, causing neck injuries.
Outcome: $350,000

CASE: Client was a passenger in a car where the driver fell asleep on a country road in the early morning hours. The car rolled multiple times. Client had eye injuries, facial injuries and neck and knee injuries.
Outcome: $850,000

CASE: Client was on the job, driving her own car, when she was rear-ended. She suffered a concussion with traumatic brain injury and pursued Workers Compensation Claim.
Outcome: $150,000

CASE: Client slipped and fell on snow and ice in Central City. He suffered back injuries, that did not require injections.
Outcome: $125,000

CASE: Client slipped and fell on snow and ice on a sidewalk in front of a business. She had to have knee surgery and multiple injections in her back.
Outcome: $175,000

CASE: Client was visiting a friend who was renting a house. Client tripped on untreated, dangerous section of deck and injured his back.
Outcome: $150,000

CASE:Client was rear ended and needed fusion spinal surgery. Insurance proceeds were limited.
Outcome: $125,000

CASE:Client was rear-ended and had to have rotator cuff surgery. Insurance proceeds were limited.
Settled for $65,000

CASE:Client was at Denver International Aiport traveling through Denver, slipped and fell and broke her ankle.
Settled for $118,750

CASE:Client was exposed to mold in a multi-family dwelling that was caused by leaking water.
Settled for $125,000

CASE:Motorcycle accident, reconstructive surgery, post-traumatic stress disorder, neurological injuries
Settled for $1,275,000

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