This week the Madison Record reported on a new law related to attorney’s fees in Illinois medical malpractice cases. We previously blogged about the advance of the legislation which was supported by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA). As the story reported, with the Governor’s signature the law officially went into effect with the on Friday after making it through the General Assembly’s “veto session” earlier in the month.
Understanding Medical Malpractice Attorney’s Fees
Most medical malpractice cases for plaintiffs are taken by attorneys on a “contingency fee” agreement. This means that the injured party does not have to come up with any money up front to have representation in the case. Instead, the attorney is only paid if the plaintiff receives a settlement or jury verdict. If that happens the attorneys receives a percentage of the award. The exact percentage is agreed upon between the parties before the work gets underway.
New Illinois Law
Essentially the new law sets specific rules about how much injury attorneys can collect under these contingency fee arrangements in medical malpractice cases. The new rule is a blanket cap of one-third of the total award. In addition, the law prevents attorneys from petitioning to the Supreme Court for a higher amount.
The ITLA supported the measure because it represents a fairer, more direct approach to contingency fee limits than under the previous law. Before this week, the amount that an attorney could recover was on a staggered scale. Specifically, contingency agreements could allow payment of one third of any amount under $150,000; twenty five percent of amounts up to $1 million; and twenty percentage of any award over that amount.
This bizarre arrangement only for medical malpractice cases was far different than contingency fee agreements for other legal matters–where one-third is the standard amount. There was not much reasoning behind having different rules for medical malpractice cases compared to other matters. Thankfully this new law levels the playing field and makes the rules far more transparent and logical.
Judicial Issues in the General Assembly
Oftentimes proposals in the Illinois General Assembly related to the legal system are decided along party line votes. For example, most “tort reform” bills are strongly supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. This particular contingency fee bill mostly fit that pattern, with the majority of Republicans opposing the measure and Democrats supporting it. However, it was not entirely a partisan split. For example, several Republicans actually joined with Democrats to support the bill, including the Republican leader of the Illinois Senate, Christine Radogno.
In any event, the Chicago med mal attorneys at our firm are glad that this measure was signed into law. We are proud of our work helping those hurt by medical errors receive fair compensation and redress and look forward to continuing in our effort to demand that patient safety be respected. If you or someone you know may have been harmed by a medical mistakes, please contact our office today to learn about how we might be able to help.
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