Making an Injury Claim Against the Government in Illinois

Learn about filing a personal injury lawsuit against the State of Illinois for personal injuries sustained from a state government entity or employee.

By , J.D. · University of Michigan Law School

Anyone injured as a result of someone else's negligence in Illinois may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit in the state's civil court system, as long as the defendant is a private party. For instance, if you are hit by a careless driver, or you trip and fall on a broken floor tile in a grocery store, you might sue the driver or the store for damages.

But if you are hit by a government employee or you trip and fall in a government building, your claim will be subject to a different set of rules. The Illinois Court of Claims Act governs claims filed against the state government in Illinois, and in this article we'll look at the rules and requirements of bringing a claim under this law.

The Illinois Court of Claims Act

The Court of Claims Act can be found in Illinois Compiled Statutes Chapter 705 section 505. The Act both creates the Court of Claims and dictates the types of cases that the Court of Claims will hear. These include a wide range of cases against the state, including cases for breach of contract, for unjustly-served time in state prisons, for review of administrative decisions, and claims of personal injury or similar civil wrongs.

The Illinois Court of Claims Act (and the Illinois law that applies to local governments, the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act) limits the state's application of the rule of sovereign immunity. "Sovereign immunity" dates back centuries to Great Britain, where the rule prevented individuals from suing the kingdom.

What the Illinois Law Does (And Does Not) Cover

In Illinois, an injured person can bring a claim against the state if he or she is injured by a state employee or agency, as long as the same claim would be available if it were brought against a private individual or company.

What does this mean? For example:

  • A person hit by a car driven by a government employee may file a claim under the Court of Claims Act, just as a private individual could bring a car accident lawsuit against another driver.
  • Premises liability claims may be filed if a dangerous condition on government property causes injuries and those in charge of the property were on proper notice of the problem.
  • Claims for medical negligence may be filed against workers at state hospitals, clinics, and similar facilities.
  • Many other claims that arise from negligence, or the failure to use reasonable care when exercising a duty toward another, can also be filed against the state of Illinois under the Court of Claims Act.

Learn more about Negligence and Fault for an Accident.

The Court of Claims Act covers not only acts filed against the state government, but also acts filed against a wide range of state agencies, commissions, departments, and public universities. For instance, if you were injured on property belonging to the University of Illinois, you would begin your claim by filing notice with the Attorney General and the Clerk of Court of Claims, not by filing the lawsuit in a regular district or circuit court. (See below for the time limits on filing these and other claims against the government in Illinois.)

Filing a Claim Against a Local Government in Illinois

Illinois has a separate law for injury claims against municipalities, the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, which can be found at ILCS Chapter 745 Section 10. The stated purpose of this law is "to protect local public entities and public employees from liability arising from the operation of government." To this end, the Act strictly limits the types of claims that can be brought against local governments.

Specifically, a claim against a local government usually must be based on "willful and wanton" misconduct. A claim for simple negligence or carelessness will not be accepted. The Act applies to local and municipal governments, school districts, and many other types of local government entities.

Time Limits for Filing Claims Against the Government In Illinois

A person seeking to file a claim against the state government must take one of two steps. The first option is to file notice of the claim with the Attorney General and the Clerk of the Court of Claims within one year of the date of injury. This written notice must list the name and home address of the injured person, the date and time of the accident, the place where it occurred, a brief description of the accident, and the name and address of the claimant's attending physician.

The second option is to file a lawsuit with the Court of Claims within one year of the date the accident occurred. If the claim is filed within one year, notice is not necessary. However, all claims must be filed within two years of the date of the accident, even if notice is filed first.

For claims of "willful and wanton" misconduct against a local or municipal government or employee, the claim must be filed within one year, or within two years if the claim is based on medical negligence.

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