Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Environmental Lawyers in Illinois
Environmental law is an extremely broad and complex area of law. There are federal laws and state laws, some of which overlap or even contradict each other. There are layers of regulations and agencies that enforce those regulations, such as the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
It all boils down to protecting land, water and air by limiting what can be released into them. And allowing individuals who are harmed by dangerous substances to seek damages.
Environmental law plays out in private lawsuits in our courts as well as proceedings within the agencies that enforce the laws and handle violations. And it affects a lot of people – individuals, business owners, property owners. You may find yourself dealing with this area of law if you are buying real estate, starting a company, or if your health or the health of a loved one has been affected by some sort of chemical or contamination.
This area of law can be divided into two main categories: (1) Individuals who have suffered harm, or believe they have suffered harm, caused by a dangerous substance, and (2) businesses or landowners who must comply with the laws on reporting, permits, disposal, clean up, etc.
If you have suffered some harm – whether it’s property damage or illness – you may be able to file a lawsuit. Some lawsuits ask for damages (money) and others ask the court to order the defendant to stop certain activity, like releasing toxins into the air, or take certain action, like cleaning up contaminated land.
You may have heard the term “toxic tort.” A toxic tort is an injury lawsuit claiming harm from a dangerous substance. One of the most common types of toxic torts is for harm caused by pharmaceutical drugs. Other examples are workplace hazards (asbestos), pesticides, or toxic substances in your home (mold, construction materials). Many toxic torts are class action lawsuits, where a large group of people join in one lawsuit. It might be a group of employees, neighbors, or people who have all taken the same prescription drug with negative side effects. These lawsuits are defended aggressively, because if one plaintiff wins, others are sure to follow.
An individual also may be able to file a citizen suit to stop a polluter from contaminating a water source, or to force a corporation to clean up the water, for example. If you suspect contamination, you should contact the relevant environmental agencies, including the local agency in charge of handling pollution and even the EPA.
Also, contact an environmental law attorney who can explain the process and help you make the right agency contacts. If you have an injury or property damage, they’ll help you decide whether to pursue a lawsuit. If you need help getting started, please contact us. We can point you in the right direction and refer you to an experienced Illinois environmental law attorney.
If your business involves dangerous or potentially harmful substances you should consult with an environmental law attorney before starting up or putting products into the marketplace. Being proactive and not waiting until there’s a problem can save a lot of time and money. The fines for violations of environmental laws can be significant, and clean up costs after the fact could force you out of business. Defending a personal injury lawsuit is another risk.
Many environmental law attorneys who represent businesses can help with every aspect, from permits to lawsuits, if you ever come up against one.
An experienced attorney will know which permits you need and can help you get them. They will know your reporting requirements – what you’re required to tell the government about your business and when you’re required to do so. They’ll know the law on storage, disposal and release. They can help you keep up with these legal requirements so that you don’t face a violation.
At some point, even if you do everything right, you may have to deal with an inspector, who has the right to come onto your property to see whether you are in compliance with environmental laws. An environmental law attorney can guide you through this process, helping you avoid any pitfalls.
If you are found not in compliance, there may be fines. You can be forced to clean up the contamination or pay for someone else to do the clean up. You may get sued by individuals or other businesses that claim to be affected by your contamination. They may be suing for damages (money) or for an injunction (asking the court to order you to stop certain activities). For some violations there may even be criminal consequences. Obviously, this can negatively affect your business. Environmental law attorneys can defend you against these claims.
If you would like a referral to an Illinois environmental law attorney, whether you’re just starting a business and looking for some advice or have been in business a long time and have come up against a problem (lawsuit, notice of violation, etc.), contact us. We can refer you to someone with the experience to help.
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