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NEED FOR TORT REFORM A MYTH

Governor Bruce Rauner claims that the Illinois economy is weak. His proposal to solve this alleged problem is to institute lawsuit and workers’ compensation reforms, however, the facts simply do not support him.

First, the Illinois economy is not weak and it is growing at a steady rate. As of January 2015, the unemployment rate dropped two points from a year ago to 6.1 percent. For seven straight months in 2014, Illinois led the country in the rate of decline of its unemployment rate. In 2014, Illinois increased the number of people employed by 106,000.

In addition, frivolous lawsuits are not a problem driving away business. In Illinois, over 70% of lawsuits are actually filed by companies suing each other or individuals for money. Since 2007, the number of all civil cases filed in Illinois courts had declined by 26 percent since 2007. As for medical malpractice, since 2003 the number of lawsuits filed has declined by 40 percent. When frivolous lawsuits are filed, we have a judicial system where the judges have the power to dismiss these cases before they are ever tried before a jury.

Governor Rauner is also calling for additional workers’ compensation reforms even though the legislature already enacted changes to limit benefits to injured workers in 2011. The governor and others try to compare Illinois to Indiana where workers’ compensation premiums are lower, but this is not a fair comparison. Indiana workers make 27 percent less than Illinois workers. Because non-medical compensation is based upon a worker’s average weekly wage, since Illinois has a higher weekly wage, workers’ compensation costs are lower in Indiana. Indiana also does not allow workers to choose their own doctor. They must see the “company doctor.” Also, all Indiana workers receive the same compensation for the same injury regardless of their personal circumstances.

So called “tort reform” in Illinois will only benefit big business and insurance companies at the expense of injured individuals and workers. Their goal is to limit or completely eliminate any potential liability for corporations. Our judicial system is here to give individuals their day in court, even if the defendant is a large corporation or insurance company.

Sources: Illinois Dept. of Employment Security and U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.