On January 13, 2021, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 3360 which amends the state’s prejudgment interest statute to allow recovery of 9 percent interest per year on all personal injury and wrongful death claims decided in favor of the plaintiff. The bill must be signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker. Once the law takes effect, plaintiffs in personal injury and wrongful death cases will recover prejudgment interest at the rate of 9 percent per year on all damages awarded in a judgment.
Previously, only post-judgment interest was recoverable in tort actions at a rate of 9 percent per year. Now, the newly passed bill, which will become 735 ILCS 5/2-1303(c), states that in all personal injury and wrongful death actions resulting from or occasioned by the conduct of a person or entity, whether by negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, intentional conduct, or strict liability of another, the plaintiff shall recover prejudgment interest. Interest begins to accrue on the date the defendant has “notice of the injury from the incident itself or a written notice.”
While this law affects all cases to be filed from the date of enactment forward, the statute also indicates that prejudgment interest shall begin accruing on the “later of the effective date [of the amendment] or the date the alleged tortfeasor has notice of the injury.” In short, the new law, once signed by Gov. Pritzker, will affect all currently pending personal injury and wrongful death matters. The date of notice under this law will depend on the facts of the individual cases, which, in some cases will be the date of service of process, while in others, it could be the date of the incident, depending upon the facts of the case.
It is anticipated that this statute could encourage a shortened discovery schedule and may also encourage earlier case resolution in certain cases. However, with the ongoing pandemic and the large backlog of cases in many courts across Illinois, one can foresee large prejudgment interest awards in part due to the unavailability of trial dates while criminal trials are addressed before civil matters.
Several organizations have urged Gov. Pritzker to veto House Bill 3360 due to issues surrounding the notice date and the fact that a claimant may not submit a claim until the last date of the applicable statute of limitations — typically 2 years from the date of the incident. This development could unnecessarily increase the available prejudgment interest in some cases. So far, Gov. Pritzker has not offered any public indication on how he will proceed on this new bill.