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What is a Tort Case, and What does it Involve in Illinois?

Tort cases in Illinois are civil lawsuits aimed at obtaining a private civil remedy such as damages for injuries or harms caused by a civil wrong. The actual legal action is called a tort claim filed in an Illinois court to obtain damages for infliction of emotional distress (intentional or unintentional), injuries, negligence, property damage, financial losses, etc.

The Illinois Circuit Court has general jurisdiction over tort cases against individuals in the state while offering a small claims procedure for tort cases that involve $10,000.00 or less in dispute. The Illinois court of claims has jurisdiction over tort claims against the state of Illinois and its agencies.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Illinois Tort Law?

Illinois Tort law is an area of civil law that allows an individual take legal action against another individual, business, organization for any injury or harm suffered from their actions. It is a broad area of the state's civil law that governs wrongdoings committed against another person.

It's the law of civil wrongs, and in Illinois, it is commonly referred to as Negligence or Personal injury laws because most cases under Illinois tort law are negligence and personal injury cases.

The state's tort law simply constitutes a set of codes, rules, and statutes that guide the legal proceedings regarding tort claims and remedies in the state.

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in Illinois?

Most cases covered by tort law in Illinois are personal injury lawsuits. They are legal disputes that ensue when an individual gets harmed by the actions of another. Examples include;

  • Auto accidents or vehicle crashes from negligent acts such as speeding.
  • Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
  • Medical Malpractice, resulting from a health care provider's negligence in providing medical treatment.
  • Unsafe or Defective Products (pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical).
  • Individual negligence, such as a homeowner ignoring a potentially harmful problem.
  • Dog bites and animal attacks with the animal owner being liable for injuries emanating from unprovoked dog bites or attacks per the Illinois Animal Control Act.
  • Battery: That is, intentionally and unlawfully touching another individual without legal justification.
  • Sexual and domestic abuse- An intentional tort, and a criminal offense per the IllinoisDomestic Violence Act
  • Premises Liability
  • Wrongful deaths
  • Slip & Fall Accidents
  • Construction Accidents etc.

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in Illinois?

Illinois Civil or Tort Law governs civil wrongdoings and legal disputes, while the Illinois criminal Law governs crimes against persons and society.

  • Intent: Tort cases primarily involve accidents or injuries caused by negligence, while criminal cases are planned and intentional wrongdoings.
  • Statute: Tort cases and lawsuits are guided by the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, while the criminal cases and penalties are under the authority of the Illinois Criminal Code.
  • Victim and purpose: Tort law's primary objective is compensating the individual affected by civil wrongdoing, while criminal law targets reprimanding a criminal for an illegal act against the society.
  • The burden of Proof: In criminal law, the burden of proof is always on the state. But in civil law or Tort law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In criminal cases, the state has to prove that the defendant is guilty of committing a crime "Beyond Reasonable Doubt." While in Civil or tort cases, the burden of proof is based on "clear and convincing standards.
  • Penalty: The penalty for losing a criminal case is incarceration, an expensive fine to the government and probation. In contrast, the penalty for a civil suit is usually a substantial payment of damages. More often, they are settled outside the courtroom with an attractive pay to have the suit dropped.

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in Illinois?

The primary purpose of tort law in Illinois is to compensate victims who have suffered injury or wrong as a result of the actions of an individual or organization and not to punish the individual or organization that committed the civil wrong.

The law aims to provide relief to injured parties for harms caused by others and to deter defendants from repeating the act by imposing liability, especially in the case of intentional tort.

What is a Tort Claim in Illinois?

A tort claim in Illinois is a legal assertion for damages by the victim of civil wrongdoing. This legal action enables victims to seek remedy from the liable party for physical, emotional, psychological or financial injury.

When found legally responsible, the responsible party will be required to pay out damages related to the loss the victim has suffered.

There are 3 main categories of tort claims recognized by Illinois courts

  • Intentional torts where the defendant's intentional acts or wrongdoing cause harm to the plaintiff.
  • Negligence; where the plaintiff suffers injuries or damages as a result of the defendant's misconduct and negligent behavior. It is also called unintentional torts.
  • Strict liability where defendants are found liable for injuries caused by their actions regardless of if it was intentional or due to negligence.

How Do You File a Tort Claim in Illinois?

Before filing a tort claim in Illinois, the wronged individual may attempt to settle the dispute with the other party. Sometimes, the other party may understand and choose to settle, but if this is not the case, it is time to file a tort claim.

A tort claim is a civil claim; hence, a tort case is heard in Illinois Circuit Courts.

  • The plaintiff is advised to file the claim in the county circuit court where the injury took place or where the individual or organization that committed the wrong resides, works, or operates.
  • The petitioner who is filing the claim may also contact the county clerk to find what the procedure is, what documents will be required and fees.
  • Also, the petitioner has to make sure that the claim is filed within the Illinois torts statute of limitations, which is usually 2 years starting from the moment the wrong has been committed.
  • Before filing, the individual must make sure to gather enough information and evidence to prove the claim. Usually, in Illinois courts, the petitioner must be able to prove the following for a successful claim:
    • That the other party owed a duty of care,
    • That the other party breached or failed to fulfill that duty,
    • Cause in Fact that the injury wouldn't have occurred if the other party had not failed
    • Proximate Cause that the other party's failure caused the injury; and
    • That there were damages and loss caused because of the injury.
  • The plaintiff should consider hiring an attorney to put all the necessary steps and information in place.
  • After filing the claim, with appropriate Illinois approved forms, the Court will serve the defendant a summons as a notification of the lawsuit and the chosen hearing date.

NB: A plaintiff may also file a tort claim against the Illinois Government. This is governed by the Civil immunity Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act. The claim must be based on "willful and wanton" misconduct because the claim for simple negligence will not be accepted.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in Illinois?

The following must be in a tort claim filed in Illinois:

  • The plaintiff's name and address
  • Defendant's name, and address where the summons will be sent.
  • The date, place, and circumstances surrounding the event of the injury.
  • A description of the injury.
  • The name of the individual that caused the injury
  • The amount of damages requested with details of how it was computed.
  • Reasons why the plaintiff is legally entitled to recovering the damages.

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in Illinois?

Pre-Litigation

After filing a tort claim in Illinois, the summons is delivered to the defendant in the following ways:

  • Through the Sheriff's department or a private process serving company,
  • Using Certified mail with the receipt as proof that it was received.

After the summons is received, the defendant has 30 days to respond with an answer denying or admitting the allegations or with counterclaims/motion.

In some courts, the case may be assigned a mandatory arbitration program for dispute resolution. If the Court does not mandate the program, the case may proceed to trial

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

In addition to understanding the legal process involved in tort claims, the personal injury lawyers are important to a tort case because they:

  • Take great care in investigating claims,
  • Gather evidence to support the claim,
  • Explain client rights and provide beneficial advice,
  • Thoroughly assesses damages and settlement offers,
  • Prepare pleadings and complaints
  • Represent clients during trials.

A critical aspect of tort claims is when the claim is denied by the defendant. Hiring an attorney at this point may be pivotal to the success of the case.

In Illinois, not all tort cases require hiring an attorney, especially if the damages are minimal, and a favorable settlement offer has been given to the plaintiff. In cases like these, the litigant may self-represent.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me?

The Illinois State Bar Association provides interested individuals with an online search tool to hire attorneys, have free consultations, and also get legal aid. There is also the option of getting legal aid online in Illinois.

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