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Craig M. Sandberg Applauds New Illinois Law on Attorneys' Fees in Medical Malpractice Cases

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2013

Contact: Craig M. Sandberg, 312.263.7249,

Chicago, IL – Today, Gov. Pat Quinn signed Public Act 97-1145 into Illinois law. The amendatory act caps attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice case at one-third of a plaintiff’s award and bars lawyers from petitioning the court for higher fees. Section 95 (Applicability) of the P.A. 97-1145 confirms that the amendatory act applies to all “actions commenced or pending on or after the effective date” of 01/18/13. This bill amends 735 ILCS 5/2-1114.

Chicago lawyer Craig M. Sandberg today praised Illinois’ new law as “fair” in that it will allow attorneys to receive up to 33 1/3% of a plaintiff’s sum recovered, but no more, in medical malpractice cases.

“Medical malpractice case require a significant investment of time, effort and resources. Moreover, these case are, by their very nature, complex matters. It's only fair to allow attorneys to receive the same fees as they could contract with their clients receive in other, non-medical negligence cases,” Sandberg said. “The law will, simultaneously, prevent lawyers from seeking higher fees.” “Importantly, prior to this law, in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit that required an order of the court, the approval of an enhanced attorneys' fee was left to the approval of the court wherein its application was less than uniform.”

Attorneys commonly enter into “contingency fee agreements” with clients in personal injury cases. Under these agreements, attorneys do not collect fees for their legal services until the client recovers an award through a verdict or settlement. The attorney’s fee then represents a percentage of that award. The agreements are generally seen as a way for injury victims to obtain legal help who might otherwise be unable to afford to hire an attorney.

In most non-medical malpractice cases, the common contingency fee is typically between 33 1/3% to 40% of all sums recovered. Prior to Public Act 97-1145, however, attorneys in Illinois could not collect that same amount in medical malpractice cases. Up until now, Illinois law said that attorneys in medical malpractice lawsuits could charge 33 1/3 percent of the first $150,000 of an award, 25 percent of the next $850,000, and 20 percent of anything above $1 million. To seek fees beyond those limits, attorneys needed to petition a court for higher fees in certain situations. Basically, a lawyer could argue that a particular case warranted a higher fee, a request that was then left up to the judge.

Mr. Sandberg is a partner of the Chicago law firm of Muslin & Sandberg. Mr. Sandberg focuses his practice on representing injured patients and the families of those who have died due to medical malpractice.

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