Even personal injury lawyers are looking for a bailout

Travis Akin Feb. 22, 2009, 12:36am

Economic news, good or bad, comes down to numbers, and in Illinois lately, the numbers have not been good.

According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois lost 100,000 jobs in 2008. And the forecast for 2009 is even worse – a leading analyst at the University of Illinois projects a loss of 147,000 jobs this year.

There has been a great deal of debate in Washington recently about bailout bills and stimulus packages, and clearly, Illinois' economy could use a boost. Unfortunately, a bill now making its way through the state Senate in Springfield would do just the opposite, and rather than stimulating job growth, this legislation, if passed, could lead to a further hemorrhaging of jobs here.

This proposed legislation has become alternately known as the "Lawsuit Stimulus Package" and the "Trial Lawyer Bailout Bill" because it will encourage more people to file lawsuits and put more money into the pockets of personal injury lawyers. Specifically, Senate Bill 184 requires defendants in civil lawsuits to pay prejudgment interest on damage awards, and the clock starts ticking the moment the claim is filed. The legislation offers no reprieve for defendants when the plaintiffs' lawyers cause a delay.

The intention behind the bill is to intimidate and force defendants into an early settlement long before the facts of the case are fully known.

Illinois has long been known as an extremely lawsuit-friendly state, with a recent survey from the Harris polling company ranking Illinois 46th out of all 50 states for judicial fairness. Senate Bill 184 is designed to stimulate even more lawsuits here, and that's bad news for Illinois businesses and their employees.

While the proposed measure would be very good for plaintiff attorneys, it would hit Illinois citizens and employers square in the pocketbook. Ultimately this legislation is little more than a bailout for personal injury lawyers.

It truly boggles the mind to think that the personal injury lawyers and their allies in the General Assembly could have such disregard for the plight of Illinois working families. At a time when Illinois is shedding more than 100,000 jobs annually, shouldn't the Illinois Legislature be promoting policies to grow the economy instead of pushing legislation that most certainly will continue to shrink it?

Illinois legislators should take a long, hard look at the impact the "Lawsuit Stimulus" bill would have on struggling Illinois businesses and their employees. Every dollar paid out to trial lawyers in an unnecessary lawsuit settlement will mean fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for Illinois residents.

Passing this bill will strike yet another blow to any semblance of fairness in the Illinois legal system, further cementing Illinois' costly status as the "Lawsuit Capital of the Midwest" – not exactly an attractive title to companies looking to relocate or expand operations here.

Now is the time to stimulate job growth, not lawsuit growth. We need to stand together to keep Senate Bill 184 from becoming law. Log onto www.illawsuitabuseabusewatch.org and join the effort to stop this jobs-killing bill.

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