The Case for Prejudgment Interest in Illinois Personal Injury Actions

Experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers have long argued in favor of allowing prejudgment interest to successful plaintiffs in Illinois personal injury actions.  Successul plaintiffs in Illinois personal injury actions, including Chicago medical malpractice and Chicago wrongful death cases, are entitled to postjudgment interest if the case is appealed.  Until recently, however the Illinois bar was divided on the issue of prejudgment interest.

In December 2008, the assembly of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), an organization representing over 35,000 lawyers in all sectors of the state bar, approved draft legislation that would require the payment of prejudgment interest to successful plainitffs in all civil litigation in which money damages are sought.  This proposed ligislation is strongly apposed, not surprisingly, by the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel (IDC).

According to an ISBA statement describing the draft legislation, “a prejudgment interest statue would encourage quick evaluation and early settlement of civil cases,” especially for insurance companies who adopt a stall and pay later approach.  Further, this legislation recognizes that “the delay awaiting a money judgment is also a delay in the value of the judgmetn that is ultimately received.”  The ISBA noted that 16 other states have already enacted legislation providing for prejudgment interest.

Although this draft legislation is a step in the right direction for protecting the rights of injured plaintiffs, it does not go far enough.  Notably, the designated interest rate is the “average, one-year constant maturity United States Treasury bill rate” of the year preceding the filing of the lawsuit plus two percentage points.  Currently, the T-bill interest rate is zero.

This legislation is sure to be the subject of heated debate in the Illinois congress, and lawyers on both sides of the bar are keeping close watch of the outcome.

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