For a person who has suffered a life-altering injury, incurred medical expenses or, even worse, lost the family breadwinner due to another party’s malfeasance or negligence, delays in resolving their claims compound their injury and loss. For someone who must learn to live with being paralyzed or disabled, such delays often lead to financial hardship.
Local hospital executives, Doug Cropper and Bob Erickson’s recent commentary asks Gov. JB Pritzker to veto House Bill 3360. The legislation eliminates the unfair financial benefits businesses reap from prioritizing profits over people and their pain. The measure incentivizes corporations and insurers to promptly and timely resolve meritorious claims instead of rewarding them for dragging cases out for years, a practice that disproportionately harms lower-income and minority plaintiffs who are hard-pressed to withstand the loss of income from being unable to return to work.
The reason this change is necessary is to prevent deep-pocketed defendants from delaying cases in the hopes that injured parties or their families will become so financially desperate they accept a settlement that is far less than they likely would have received after a favorable verdict.
In truth, 97% of civil cases filed in Illinois reach a settlement without trial. In those instances, prejudgment interest would not accrue. Nor do defendants pay prejudgment interest when they win. This legislation only applies to a tiny fraction of cases.
Those who oppose this bill claim that doctors will flee Illinois if the measure becomes law, omitting that 46 states have some form of prejudgment interest, so wherever they went prejudgment interest would likely be the law.
In the past, those who represent hospitals and doctors have used scare tactics against legislation they don’t like, but the number of doctors engaged in patient care has never declined. As one of America’s economic, education, and culture powerhouses, Illinois will remain an attractive place to practice medicine.
Mandating prejudgment interest will reduce civil litigation docket congestion, incentivize timely resolution of meritorious claims, and lessen the burden on the court system – saving taxpayer money.
Too often, justice delayed has meant justice denied. By signing this bill, Gov. Pritzker can continue his efforts to make our legal system fairer for all. We should all encourage Gov. Pritzker to sign HB 3360 into law and bring Illinois in line with the other 46 states with prejudgment interest laws on the books. Let’s put an end to the "deny, delay and don’t pay" tactics which serve no one.
Larry R. Rogers, Jr., of Chicago, is president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.