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.

Illinois Tort Immunity

The State Lawsuit Immunity Act says Illinois 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

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:

  • Workers’ Compensation Claims involving state employees
  • Contracts with the state
  • Torts caused by the state
  • Claims by individuals who unjustly served in prison
  • Claims under the Line of Duty Compensation Act
  • Claims under the Crime Victims Compensation Act
  • Claims under the Illinois National Guardsman’s Compensation Act
  • Issues involving funds deposited with Illinois based on the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act
  • Damages caused by escaped inmates

Illinois, in general, is immune from other types of lawsuits.

Damage Caps

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.

When Is the State of Illinois a Defendant?

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:

  • The Medical Center Commission
  • The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
  • The Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University
  • The Board of Trustees of Chicago State University
  • The Board of Trustees of Eastern Illinois University
  • The Board of Trustees of Governors State University
  • The Board of Trustees of Illinois State University
  • The Board of Trustees of Northeastern Illinois University
  • The Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University
  • The Board of Trustees of Western Illinois University
  • The Board of Trustees of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

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.

Local Government and Government Employees Tort Immunity Act

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.

When a Local Government Is Not Liable

A local government is liable for your injuries if they have a duty toward you, except for when:

  • It adopts or fails to adopt a law or enforces or fails to enforce a law
  • It negligently administers licenses
  • It negligently inspects property for health and safety issues
  • There are unsafe conditions on property the government lacked notice of
  • It fails to supervise activity on public property
  • Injuries result from hazardous recreational activities
  • It completes a discretionary act

Government Immunity Is Not Absolute

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.

Time Limit for Claims Against a 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.

Let Us Help When a Government Is Responsible for Your Injuries

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.

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(312) 236-2900
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