If you think you have a legal claim against the State of Illinois, a county or city, or some arm of the state or local government, you need to talk with a seasoned personal injury attorney about government liability and immunity. Sovereign immunity is the legal concept that refers to a private party’s inability to sue the government without its consent. This legal doctrine is old—it comes to us from British common law. You couldn’t sue the king.
In the U.S., we still have the doctrine of sovereign immunity, though it’s evolved. The federal government and most states have waived some of their immunity, giving you the chance to bring claims against them for certain wrongs. But the process is different from traditional personal injury claims, which is why it’s important to talk with an Illinois personal injury lawyer about your claim.
Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. has decades of combined experience handling personal injury cases, including those involving government liability. Call us today at (312) 236-2900 or send us your information through the online form. We’ll thoroughly review your case, identify the defendants, and explain any issues of government immunity.
The State Lawsuit Immunity Act says you can’t name Illinois as a defendant or party in a lawsuit except under the Court of Claims Act, the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, or the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Because of these major limitations, you should talk with a lawyer about when Illinois can be brought to court.
The Court of Claims Act says lawsuits against the State of Illinois fall under the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims. The court system is set up to hear claims from private people or businesses against Illinois or one of its many branches. It has jurisdiction over:
Illinois, in general, is immune from other types of lawsuits.
The Court of Claims limits your financial recovery to $2 million in most tort cases. There is an exception, though, for when your case involves a state-owned motor vehicle operated by a state employee. For example, if you were in a crash caused by an Illinois State Police trooper, then you could pursue more compensation.
Also, Illinois is entitled to setoff, which means if someone else was also at fault and paid you, Illinois wants to be paid back or will only pay you the rest of the remainder of your damages.
Illinois might be a defendant in your case if a state employee caused you harm. The state employs all types of workers, including police officers, doctors, health inspectors, professors, teachers, individuals who manage and care for state property, and many more. You could be hurt by an employee of any Illinois state agency, administration, or branch of the government, including the University of Illinois system.
Examples of entities that are considered a part of the state include but aren’t limited to:
When you work with our personal injury lawyers in Illinois, we’ll thoroughly investigate the negligent party. We’ll find out where they work and whether they were on the clock at the time of your accident. If they’re employed by a part of the Illinois government, we’ll evaluate whether we have to bring your case in the Court of Claims or not.
Your claim might not be against a branch of the Illinois government. Instead, it might be against a local municipality. In this case, your claim is controlled by the Local Government and Government Employees Tort Immunity Act.
The Tort Immunity Act significantly limits when you can file a lawsuit against a local government or agency. You can’t sue for most cases of ordinary negligence. Instead, you have to look for whether the government entity or its employee’s behavior amounted to willful and wanton misconduct, which constitutes actions that are meant to cause harm or show a conscious disregard for the safety of other people or property. An example of willful and wanton misconduct is excessive force and brutality by local police officers.
A local government is liable for your injuries if they have a duty toward you, except for when:
If you have a claim against a local government, like Chicago, Naperville, Rockford, Joliet, or a smaller county or city, it’s critical that you work with a lawyer. It’s often confusing trying to figure out when a local government or its agency has immunity or not. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the law didn’t intend for immunity to be absolute or apply to all circumstances. Sometimes, a local government is liable for your injuries. A lawyer will carefully evaluate your case and recommend how to proceed, including whether to file a lawsuit against a local government entity.
There’s a one-year notice requirement for cases against Illinois or a local entity. You need to file notice with the Attorney General and Clerk of the Court of Claims within one year of your accident. Or, you can forgo filing notice and simply file your lawsuit within one year of the accident. If you try to bring a claim after a year has passed without having given notice in time, the court will dismiss your case.
If you have a medical malpractice case against a local entity, though, you have two years from the date you knew or should have known you were injured. But overall, you must bring your claim within four years from the time you were injured.
Personal injury cases can be complicated enough without a government entity involved. But when you think a state or local government or branch of the government is to blame, it’s essential you call a lawyer. Our team at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. is well-versed in Illinois government immunity laws. We know when and how we can sue a state or local government entity.
To learn more about government liability and immunity, send us your information through our online form or call (312) 236-2900. We offer free consultations and accept cases on a contingency fee basis. You don’t pay unless we win.