Until about 1840, an idea called “the divine right of kings” was widespread in Europe. This theory held that the king ruled by direct permission from God, so he could never make a mistake or be held accountable for misconduct. This idea was embedded in American law as sovereign immunity.
Nowadays, almost no one believes in the divine right of kings. But sovereign immunity laws remain on the books in many states, including Illinois. However, there are important exceptions when it comes to car crashes and other negligence claims.
The Illinois State Government and Negligence Claims
Under the Court of Claims Act, victims may sue state employees for negligence if these tortfeasors (negligent actors) had been vulnerable to suit as civilians. In other words, if a state employee causes a car crash or a state agency does nothing about a dangerous property condition which causes injury, the victim has legal recourse. The Court of Claims Act also applies in medical malpractice claims against state-run hospitals or state-employed doctors.
Typically, the victim/plaintiff’s burden of proof is the same as it would be in regular civil court. For the State of Illinois to be liable for damages under the respondeat superior rule, the state employee must have demonstrated a lack of reasonable care.
Local Governments and Public Transportation Accidents
The Court of Claims Act does not apply to very many public transportation accidents. Very few trains, buses, or other such vehicles are under the state’s direct control. The Rockford Mass Transit District controls most of these vehicles in this geographic area. The rules are a little different under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which is the controlling statute in this legal area.
The LGGETIA’s preamble states that it is designed to limit negligence lawsuits against local government employees. So, most Rockford victims are only eligible for damages if the tortfeasor’s conduct was “willful and wanton.” In practical terms, a bus driver who was travelling 50mph in a 45mph zone and causes a crash is probably not responsible for damages.
These damages usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In many “willful and wanton” cases, additional punitive damages may be available as well.
Procedural Aspects of Your Rockford Claim for Damages
Obviously, it’s important to determine the driver’s employer in public transportation accident cases. There’s a big difference between a state worker and an RMTD worker. Furthermore, if the driver was a private contract employee, the sovereign immunity laws may not apply at all.
Important time deadlines apply in Illinois governmental negligence cases. Before the victim can even file a lawsuit, the victim usually must file a notice of claim with the responsible government agency. In most cases, the statute of limitations is only one year. So, an attorney must work quickly to gather all the facts, including the medical evidence, and determine what action is appropriate.
Count on Aggressive Attorneys
Even public transportation operators may be responsible for car crash damages in some cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rockford, contact Fisk & Monteleone, Ltd. Home and hospital visits are available.