The following op-ed by ITLA President Larry R. Roger, Jr. was published in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
We have all heard the oft used phrase, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” 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. Plaintiffs simply do not want to delay resolution of their case for years and years.
For plaintiffs, delays typically lead to added financial hardship on top of the realities of living with their injury or loss. Corporate defendants and insurers, on the other hand, have long benefitted from delaying payment of meritorious claims, undoubtedly earning interest on money that should be timely paid to a plaintiff or family they know they’ve harmed.
The passage of HB 3360 addresses this unfair paradigm by entitling a plaintiff to collect prejudgment interest if his case goes to trial and is deemed meritorious by a judge or jury. Because statistically 97% of all cases settle, the practical reality is that prejudgment interest will only be calculated on a fraction of the remaining 3% of cases in which a judgment is entered in plaintiff’s favor. The prejudgment interest would then be calculated by the judge and included in the judgment as calculated from “the date the defendant has notice of the injury from the incident itself or a written notice.”
There is a reason that 46 states have some form of prejudgment interest law on the books. There are many benefits of these statutes. They help to reduce congestion of civil litigation dockets, incentivize timely resolution of meritorious claims, and recognize the time value of money, to name just a few.
Under the bill, injuries and claims that predate the effective date of the bill will not recapture lost interest; but instead, will begin to accrue interest from the date the bill becomes law. Prejudgment interest will not be imposed on claims against municipalities or on settlements. The 9% per annum prejudgment interest rate has long been recognized in Illinois as a fair rule of post judgment interest in injury claims and is soundly grounded in Illinois policy.
The historical absence of prejudgment interest in Illinois has incentivized defendants and insurers to delay addressing meritorious injury claims, even when incident reports or morbidity and mortality meetings reveal their negligent conduct has caused harm. Despite knowing early on that claims are meritorious, defendants and insurers rarely approach injured parties to resolve their claims early; instead, they choose to profit from denying the obvious and delaying the inevitable.
With the enactment of HB 3360, all parties – defendants, insurers, as well as the plaintiffs they have harmed – are incentivized to timely resolve meritorious claims without delay. This can only be good for the court system and society as a whole.
Larry R. Rogers, Jr.
President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association