I-Leave it to the trial lawyers to try and make a bad problem even worse.
For the past several years, Illinois has been consistently ranked as one of the worst states in the nation for lawsuit abuse. Just last year, the Harris Company ranked Illinois 45th out of all 50 states for legal fairness, while no other state in the Midwest even came close to our state's costly ranking.
You would think that our state legislators would respond to our status as the "Lawsuit Abuse Capital of the Midwest" by working to restore some fairness and common sense to our state's civil justice system. You would be wrong.
It seems the personal injury lawyers and their allies in the state Senate are unsatisfied with being ranked sixth-worst for lawsuit abuse and are pushing a bill to ensure that Illinois will be ranked #1 next year as the nation's poster child for lawsuit abuse.
Last week, the personal injury lawyers moved a truly unfair bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee that will change our laws to allow personal injury lawyers to target businesses and individuals based on their ability to pay, not their degree of responsibility.
Not only is Senate Bill 1296 inherently unfair, it encourages some personal injury lawyers to seek out and sue those who have the most assets or the most insurance. This isn't justice, it is greed, and we all pay for it.
Lawsuit abuse is a serious problem in Illinois, one which costs us jobs, increases prices on everything we buy and limits access to important healthcare services.
Aggressive personal injury lawyers flock to Illinois from across the country in the hope of striking it rich playing our "lawsuit lottery." And now the personal injury lawyers are trying to make Illinois a more attractive place to file a lawsuit.
If the trial lawyers' bill passes, it will not go unnoticed by employers. Companies will think twice about expanding or relocating operations here when they see that Illinois has become an even stronger magnet for lawsuits. After all, why should a business choose to locate in a state that makes it a target for lawsuits when it can locate a few hours away in a state that has more balanced laws?
When it comes to lawsuit abuse, we all pay and we all lose – all of us except for personal injury lawyers, who stand to profit quite handsomely if Senate Bill 1296 becomes law. Senators need to hear from their constituents that making our state's notoriously unfair civil justice system even more unfair is outrageous and unacceptable.
If anything, our legislators should be passing bills that make our legal system more fair for all Illinoisans, not less fair.
Let's make sure that next year, Illinois is ranked #1 for something positive, not for having the worst civil justice system in America.
Lance Trover is Executive Director of Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch. I-LAW is a non-partisan, grassroots watchdog group dedicated to educating the public about the negative effects of lawsuit abuse and its costs to Illinois workers, consumers, taxpayers and small businesses. To learn more about I-LAW, visit www.ILlawsuitabusewatch.org.