Chicago Civil Rights Lawyer

Several laws have been enacted at the state and federal levels to protect individuals from physical and psychological harm resulting from discrimination. These laws are known as civil rights, and they are designed to ensure that individuals in the U.S. receive equal treatment in several settings, including education, employment, housing, and public accommodations.

These rights also protect incarcerated individuals from suffering mistreatment at the hands of their jailers or those suspected of crimes from being mistreated by law enforcement and the legal system during the criminal investigation process.

If you have been injured or have lost a loved one as a result of a wrongful action taken by a police officer or other public servant in violation of your civil rights, a Chicago civil rights lawyer from Zayed Law Offices can help you understand the process of obtaining compensation for the financial and psychological costs of your injury or loss.

Chicago Civil Rights Guide

Civil Rights Protections Under Illinois's Human Rights Act

Residents and visitors to Illinois are granted certain civil rights protections under a state law known as the Human Rights Act, including the ability to be free from discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, order of protection status, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy.
This act also protects citizens and visitors of the state from discrimination involving:

  • Unfavorable discharge from military service as a disqualification for employment
  • Real estate transactions
  • Access to financial credit
  • The availability of public accommodations
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace or elementary, secondary, or higher education institutions

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Many Federal Laws Also Protect the Civil Rights of Illinois Residents

In addition to the state's Human Rights Act, several laws have been enacted on the federal level that also protect Illinois residents against employment discrimination, financial and real estate transactions, the U.S. education system, and other areas.
Some of these laws include:

  • The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, prevents programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against participants based on their age. Examples of programs and activities under this law include public education, health care, public housing, welfare, food stamps, and rehabilitation services.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in public housing and education systems, places of employment, commercial facilities, public transportation, and telecommunications..
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on color, race, sex, national origin, or religion in public education, accommodations, employment, and voting.
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA), which prevents public housing discrimination based on race, religion, sex, family status, and disability.

Civil Rights Violations in the Chicago Criminal Justice System

Like many states, Illinois has faced its share of civil rights claims against its state institutions and throughout its criminal justice system. The Chicago Police Department has long been the subject of civil rights talks following the 2014 police shooting of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer.
That case ultimately resulted in the court-ordered release of a video of the shooting more than a year later. The contents of the video sparked protests, resulted in the firing of the city's police chief, and prompted a federal civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation ultimately revealed issues including excessive force, racially discriminatory conduct, and a “code of silence” among officers that made it difficult to investigate violations.
In 2019, as continued fallout from the 2014 killing of McDonald, the Chicago Police Department entered into a consent decree with the federal government that required the department to enact sweeping reforms to prevent future violations of the civil rights of individuals being investigated by the department. However, in the years since the decree was enacted, critics state that the department has slowly adopted and accepted reforms and that police committed many new civil rights violations.
In fact, in the first three years following the consent decree, the court-appointed monitor reported that the police department had missed most of the deadlines and fully complied with less than 5 percent of its requirements.

When a Civil Rights Violation Turns Into a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death

Civil rights violations in employment, public housing, and the provision of other federal and state services can result in financial and psychological impacts and can be compensated through a federal or state civil rights claim.
However, violations committed by a public law enforcement agency when dealing with citizens under investigation or incarcerated that result in personal injury or wrongful death in Chicago can be compensated by Illinois' personal injury or wrongful death claims process, as well as (in some cases) a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Some of the most common law enforcement actions involving civil rights violations that result in injury or death include:

  • False arrest, in which a citizen is searched, has their belongings seized or is unlawfully detained by a police officer who has not established that there is probable cause to suspect the citizen of a crime. Injury or death in these cases generally occurs when the citizen resists the arrest.
  • Excessive force claims involve using more force than necessary to subdue and contain a citizen attempting to resist arrest. Examples of excessive force can include tasing a minor child contacted by police for fighting or shooting an unarmed suspect for attempting to flee the scene.
  • Home invasions and searches were conducted without a warrant
  • Use of a canine to subdue a suspect when the suspect has not first been given ample opportunity to comply with the officer's commands. The Chicago Police Department's policies require the canine officer to give the suspect a verbal warning before using the animal.
  • Failure to use verbal commands to get a citizen to comply before using physical force
  • Striking a suspect to get them to comply with an arrest when the suspect has not resisted or striking a suspect after they have been handcuffed and are no longer capable of resisting arrest.
  • Abuse of incarcerated prisoners, or prisoners illnesses and injuries due to building defects, such as a lack of adequate building heating or air conditioning.

Other Civil Rights Violations Involving Local Government Agencies

While civil rights violations at the hands of law enforcement represent one of the most talked about types of violations by news media, other types of civil rights violations committed by governmental institutions can also result in personal injury, including:

  • Intimidation, threats, or abuse from teachers or school security guards.
  • Sexual abuse from teachers at public institutions
  • Failure of school personnel to protect a student from discrimination-based bullying.

The Illinois Personal Injury Claims Process for Claims Against Governmental Agencies

In Illinois, citizens can bring a personal injury claim against a state-based governmental agency such as the Illinois State Police for negligent and intentional injuries caused by civil rights violations. They may bring these claims as long as the negligence or intentional actions that led to the injury would have resulted in a personal injury claim if a private individual or organization had enacted them.
This means that if someone on the street had assaulted you, you could likely file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party for the intentional injury caused by the assault. Likewise, you can bring a claim against a governmental agency that employed an officer that assaulted you.
However, when it comes to filing a claim against a local governmental agency, such as the Chicago Police Department, only claims involving willful and wanton misconduct will be accepted, while claims resulting from injuries that arose as a result of an officer's negligence are generally not permitted.

How Long Do You Have to File a Civil Rights Personal Injury Claim?

Individuals who have been injured by an employee of a governmental agency violating their civil rights have a slightly different filing deadline than the two-year statute of limitations for most Illinois personal injury claims. If the claim is made against a state agency, it must be filed within one year to the state Attorney General and the Clerk of the Court of Claims.
Claims made against a local government agency for willful and wanton misconduct also have a one-year filing deadline, while claims pertaining to medical negligence against a local governmental agency must be filed within two years.

The Compensation Available Through a Civil Rights Personal Injury Claim

Claimants who have suffered a personal injury due to a civil rights violation at the hands of a local or state government agency can seek compensation for both the expenses and the psychological impacts of the injury they incurred.
This includes:

  • All reasonable medical expenses related to the treatment of the injury
  • Wage loss if the claimant was too injured by the incident to perform the tasks of their job
  • Loss of future earning capacity if the injury results in permanent disabilities impairing the claimant's ability to earn an income
  • Property damage that the claimant experienced as a result of the same incident that caused their injury
  • Physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other psychological impacts

Those who have lost a loved one due to a civil rights violation can seek compensation through the state's wrongful death claims process.
The type of compensation available in a wrongful death claim include:

  • The loss of financial support provided by the deceased.
  • The costs of pre-death medical treatment, a funeral, and burial or cremation.
  • The loss of comfort, society, and companionship afforded by the deceased to their spouse.
  • The loss of guidance, nurturing, and parental instruction provided by the deceased to their children.
  • The grief, sorrow, and mental distress experienced by the deceased's family members.

How a Chicago Civil Rights Attorney Can Help You Obtain the Compensation You Need

It's difficult to prevail in a claim made against a governmental agency. It's even more difficult if you're expected to show an insurance provider, a judge, or a jury how your injury resulted from a civil rights violation. Personal injury attorneys who provide services for those who have also incurred civil rights violations bring a deep understanding of the legal process and constitutionally protected rights to your claim.
Our understanding helps us to guide you as you make important decisions about your claim and also leads the provision of services aimed at helping you have a successful outcome for your claim.
Some of the services we provide to clients in civil rights, personal injury, and wrongful death cases include:

  • A determination of the source of liability and the insurance resources that are available to compensate you
  • A valuation of your claim that is based on several factors, including the severity of your injury and the profound financial and psychological impacts that it has had on your life
  • Managing communication with the governmental agency's liability insurance provider to keep the conversation focused on negotiating a settlement that adequately compensates you for your injuries
  • Managing a shortened deadline for the governmental claim to ensure your right to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury
  • Litigation services
  • Assistance collecting your settlement or award. Due to our client-friendly contingent fee billing method, you do not have to pay us for our legal services until there is a positive outcome to your claim.

Did Chicago Police Injure You Through a Civil Rights Violation?

Adam J Zayed, Founder & Trial Attorney
Chicago Civil Rights Attorney, Adam Zayed

If you suffered an injury due to discriminatory behavior at the hands of a local, state, or even federal agency, an experienced Chicago civil rights lawyer from Zayed Law Offices can help you understand the process of seeking compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or by calling (312) 726-1616.

Our personal injury law firm in Chicago, IL also provides:

Zayed Law Offices

Address: 195 Springfield Avenue,
Joliet, IL 60435

Phone: 855.726.1616