When someone does something wrong and you suffer harm as a result, you will probably feel that the person responsible owes you something. In other words, you will feel that they should bear liability. Illinois personal injury law provides a way of enforcing liability claims.
Negligence-based liability is the most common form of personal injury liability. In a nutshell, negligence means something like “carelessness.” You can win a negligence lawsuit against a defendant if you can prove the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. This is almost always the case.
- The defendant breached their duty of care.
- You suffered a bodily injury.
- The defendant’s breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the injury you suffered.
You must prove these elements of negligence on a “preponderance of the evidence” basis. That means you must show that the elements are true using enough evidence to lead a reasonable court to conclude with at least 51% certainty that you are right. To defeat your claim, the defendant must deny you that certainty with respect to at least one of these four elements.
A tort is the infringement of a right that leads to civil liability. Common examples of intentional torts include:
- Wrongful death; and
- Sexual assault.
There are many other intentional torts, such as invasion of privacy, that are not ordinarily thought of as personal injury torts. Some torts, such as sexual assault and wrongful death, can also be crimes.
Because intentional torts are considered to be particularly malicious, an award of punitive damages is more likely for an intentional tort than for a negligence-based offense. Defendants rarely agree to punitive damages in settlement negotiations. Most of the time, even trial judges are reluctant to award punitive damages.
Strict liability arises when a party bears liability even without fault. In essence, the liable party acts as an insurer for any risks that their activities generate. Illinois recognizes at least two forms of strict liability—product liability and liability for ultrahazardous activities.
Product liability arises when someone suffers an injury because of a defective product. The defect in question might be a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a labeling defect. A poisonous prescription drug is one example. Because of the difficulty in gathering evidence of a product defect, there is no need to prove fault to win a strict product liability claim.
An ultrahazardous activity is an unusually dangerous activity that cannot be made safe, no matter how much care the defendant exercises. Blasting, for example, might be an ultrahazardous activity.
Whether an activity is “ultrahazardous” depends, at least in part, on how appropriate the activity is considering the character of the location where it occurs. The Appellate Court of Illinois (First District) concurred with this principle in Continental Bldg. Corp. v. Union Oil Co. (1987).
Vicarious liability arises when one party bears liability for the wrongdoing of another party. This happens more than you might realize. Illinois recognizes three forms of vicarious liability: employer/employee liability, nondelegable duty liability, and parent/child liability.
The ancient legal principle of respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) applies when on-duty employees injure third parties through misconduct. A pizza delivery driver, for example, might injure someone in a traffic accident. In that case, assuming that the driver was acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident, the employer bears joint liability.
Employer/employee liability does not apply to independent contractors. Commercial truckers, for example, are typically independent contractors, as are doctors who work for hospitals. Even if the defendant is an independent contractor, however, a company might bear liability for negligence in hiring the contractor without investigating their suitability for the job.
Nondelegable Duty Liability
Someone who hires an independent contractor bears liability for the contractor’s wrongdoing only to the extent to which the relevant duty was “non-delegable.” For example, a homeowner hires a company to dig a sewer line, and a passerby falls into a construction trench. The homeowner is liable because their duty to keep their premises safe for the public is non-delegable. The contractor may also bear liability.
The Illinois Parental Responsibility Act imposes a limited right to sue a parent for the misconduct of their child without having to prove that the parent was at fault. To trigger liability, the child’s act must be willful or malicious. Damages are limited to $20,000 per person to $30,000 per person, depending on the circumstances. Separate standards apply to juvenile theft.
You’ll Probably Need a Naperville Personal Injury Lawyer To Turn a Claim Into Cash
As the foregoing makes obvious, liability isn’t as simple as it might seem initially. In addition to these complexities, there is the issue of how to prove liability with admissible evidence. Hiring an experienced Naperville injury lawyer should provide you with your best chance of maximizing the value of your claim.