The governor of Illinois recently signed a law that allows medical malpractice lawyers to collect higher fees. However, doctors’ groups do not agree with the law because it will result in injured patients receiving less money when they need it for expensive health care and therapy. The new law sets a standardized rate of pay for medical malpractice lawyers whereas the old system allowed some lawyers to petition the court for higher fees, sometimes as high as fifty percent of what the client was awarded.
This law was passed during the last few days of the legislative session in January when attention was focused on other issues. It arrived in the Senate on January 2nd attached to a measure that initially dealt with firearm ranges. It passed the Senate a day later. A few days later is passed the House then went to the governor who signed it on January 18th.
The previous system that determined the fees attorneys could charge for medical malpractice cases was one-third of the first $150,000 of an award. If the award exceeded $150,000 the attorney could collect twenty-five percent for up to a $1 million award. If the award exceeded $1 million then the attorney could collect twenty percent on the remainder of the award. In addition attorneys could petition the court for higher fees.
The new law eliminates the ability of attorneys to petition for higher fees. It also sets a flat rate of one-third on all awards. Now if a patient was awarded $1 million they would now pay the attorney $333,333 instead of $262,500 that they would have under the old standard. Some see this new law as taking money away from patients that is mean to offset their losses. Others see this law as fairer to attorneys. Attorneys would be able to receive the same fees that they would receive in other non-medical negligence cases where the contingency fee is usually one-third of the award. At the same time the law caps medical malpractice attorney’s fees at one-third since they are no longer able to petition the court for more fees.
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