When an accident occurs on public property, it can be very difficult to obtain compensation from any government agency. This is due, in large part, to laws which limit an injured party’s ability to sue a government entity or employee in most cases. The law, however, does not offer immunity in every situation. For example, a recent ruling by an Illinois appeals court has opened the door for further action by a bicycle rider who was injured while riding on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.
Governmental Immunity Laws
In Illinois, the Local Government and Government Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Act), affords protection to municipal governments, agencies, and their employees in most personal injury cases. It specifically provides immunity for injuries caused by conditions of public recreation areas unless a local entity or employee is guilty of willful or wanton conduct that caused the injuries. The Act also provides absolute immunity for injuries that occur on access roads to “fishing, hunting, or primitive camping, recreation, or scenic areas.”
Injury on Lakefront Trail
Three years ago, a man was injured when his bicycle hit a crack in the pavement on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. He filed a claim against the Chicago Park District in which he alleged “willful and wanton conduct” by the Park District for failing to repair the crack. In July 2015, a Cook County judge issued a summary judgment in favor of the Park District on the basis that the trail was access road to a recreational area.
The injured man appealed claiming that the Lakefront Trail is not an access road as the trial court determined, since the law implies that such roads are intended to facilitate use of “primitive” areas. He maintained that one could hardly classify Chicago’s lakefront area as primitive. Therefore, he claimed, he should have the opportunity to show that willful or wanton conduct did, in fact, cause his injuries.
The appellate court ruled that the trial court erred in finding the trail to be an access road. The three-judge panel also determined that the whether the Park District acted improperly constitutes a question of fact, which means a summary judgment was not appropriate. Thus, the appeals court reversed the summary judgment. The injured rider is now free to continue pursuing the case.
Discuss Your Case With a Legal Professional
If you have been injured on public property and have questions about who, if anyone, may be liable for your injuries, contact an experienced Kane County personal injury attorney. We will review your case and help you understand all of your available options. Call Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur, P.C. at 630-907-0909 for a free consultation today.