Injured plaintiffs will all tell you the same thing: “I just want my case to be over.” Most will also tell you that they never sued anyone before and did not desire to call a lawyer in the first place. For most, it is uncertainty about paying the bills. Or when medical expenses start to pile up. For the rest, they get a lawyer when they realize that the insurance company is just dragging things out.
The reality is that, whether the plaintiff experiences a minor back injury that keeps them off work for two months and heals with some therapy or whether the person is catastrophically injured, they still want to move on with their lives. The case, the lawsuit, the claim is just a means to an end. The loss of the life they had before means that they have incurred costs and that they will likely have more future costs (days off work, future medical expenses, just modifying their life as age worsens an old injury).
None of these real people benefit from delay. But insurance companies do. Even in a financial environment with low interest rates, insurers still benefit from time elapsing. Witnesses forget things, documents go missing, even witnesses go missing. But that does not compare to the financial and psychological strains on the injured person or their families. Compounding a permanent injury that requires endless doctor’s visits, medications, adaptations, and everything moving slower is the exhaustion from dealing with the delays, the discovery requests, the time it takes just to understand the status of their case.
Compare this to the insurance professionals who handle cases for a living. When one case settles or goes to trial, they just move onto the next one. Lawyers defending corporations and insurance companies get paid by the hour and by the task: more work and more time mean more money. They build delay into the business model. The playing field is entirely unbalanced. The group that advocates for rules for injured people in Illinois, the Illinois Trial Lawyer Association, has spoken in favor of implementing the new law.
When cases end, clients express their relief that the weight of “the case” is off their shoulders.
Thus, when the Illinois General Assembly passed H.B. 3360, it came as welcome news. The bill would introduce “pre-judgment interest” into civil lawsuits in Illinois. If Gov. Pritzker signs the bill into law, it would help balance out incentives for insurers not to make reasonable settlement efforts.
Under the law, if there is a judgment entered on a trial verdict, the Court could charge interest on the verdict. The verdict is the amount the Defendant found liable for injuring someone. Thus, a new incentive would be introduced that weighs against the incentives that motivate the party with the money to hold onto it. It would give them a good reason to evaluate claims fairly from the start and make serious, reasonable settlement offers. Conversely, it would remove incentives to waste time and make ‘low-ball’ offers.
Even the Insurance industry admits that the result would be “immediate,” in an article identifying the new law in Insurance Journal.
While Courts have been closed or restricted due to COVID-19, civil for cases idle. There are very limited jury trials across Illinois by February, 2021. Illinois Courts plan tentative openings with new physical barriers and spacing. However, there remains a backlog of cases that must advance to trial. There will be too many cases looking for too few jurors. The pre-judgment interest law would give the parties more motivation to meet and consider whether their case can be settled.
To discuss your injury questions and the laws governing civil injury cases, contact a lawyer at Coogan Gallagher – (312) 782-7482.