Why is Illinois Senate Bill 1912, heading to Governor Quinn, regarding timely receipt of settlement funds, important?

by Timothy Deffet

It is Friday-in the U.S. anyway. Most people are trying to get through their day, finish up their work tasks for the week, fight traffic, and then go on to enjoy their weekend-maybe to go home to kiss their wives or husbands. Time to cut the lawn, have an early spring BBQ, or share some quality time with a young son or daughter.

So why should you care about some boring Illinois Senate bill? Why should you care that a person severely injured be given their settlement funds in a timely manner? Here is why. It’s because it is not a well-known fact to the public that a case does not just end when a settlement or verdict occurs. No, that is just the beginning. The next step is the injured party must try to get the insurance company for the wrongdoer to pay in a timely manner. Not all insurance companies refuse to pay right away. However, there are some well-known companies who can drag this out for months on end and they need to be dealt with in a manner that sets consequences for their vexatious refusals to pay. If you refuse to pay a bill, like a credit card bill, are you not charged interest?

For an injured person, major costs like medical liens must be paid back, and the injured party must catch up on years’ worth of lost wages they may have missed because they were out of work during the injury. Mortgages are due and credit card bills have stacked up to fill the gap. If they are lucky they did not have to declare bankruptcy in some situations.

This bill provides that if payment is not made within the statutory period, the court, after a hearing, can enter a judgment for the plaintiff on the settlement amount plus costs of obtaining the judgment and statutory interest already applicable to judgments.

ITLA President Gregory Shevlin explains this more eloquently than I could ever do. He states  the following in a letter to the editor in The Southern on May 31, 2013:

“Dear Editor:

Ask the parents of a child permanently disabled by someone’s negligent behavior if a negotiated settlement to care for that child for the rest for his or her life is like winning the lottery.

It’s not. The financial needs of a family in this situation are extraordinary – a specially equipped van to transport the child, modifications to their home to improve maneuverability, and a life of paid home-care assistance and colossal medical bills.

In his May 23 editorial (“State can’t afford bill to lawsuit settlements”), Travis Akin attempted to undermine Senate Bill 1912, which will ensure timely payments of a settlement reached out of court, by arguing that it will discourage settlements and somehow over-burden our courts. His effort to impede justice for injured people is no surprise.

Akin’s anti-consumer group, Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch (I-LAW), is a front for big money special interests seeking continued financial benefit by delaying payments required by any settlement. In Akin’s deeply offensive view, fairly compensating a family for the loss of a child’s life potential is akin to that family winning the lottery.  His editorial illustrates little or no understanding of this important piece of legislation, which will address delays in payment of settlements – something that happens far too often.

The child condemned to a life of disability because of reckless conduct deserves far better from our justice system. SB 1912 will help to ensure that those injured will more quickly receive their settlements, allowing them to pay medical and living expenses and not be subjected to potential financial ruin.

Gregory L. Shevlin
President, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.”

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