How Does Comparative Negligence Work?

If you have been injured in any way, you may be entitled to compensation. In order to recover damages for your injury, there needs to be some form of negligence or fault involved, such as if a driver wasn’t paying attention in a car accident or if a manufacturer failed to account for safety flaws in a product.

If you can prove that negligence occurred on the part of the defendant (i.e. the party responsible for your injury) and that it resulted in your injury, then you can recover compensation for medical expenses, pain, and suffering, etc. However, there are situations where a case is not so straightforward, such as when both parties are in some way at fault for the injury. In these cases, a comparative fault standard is used.

Comparative Negligence in Illinois Law

To understand how comparative negligence works, let’s look at an example. Suppose you were driving through an intersection while talking on the phone. While you were crossing—perfectly legally—another driver came and T-boned your car when they should have been waiting for the light to change.

In this case, you might be found partially liable for your injury since you were on the phone and, arguably, distracted. The other driver would likely be more liable since they violated the law by disobeying traffic signals.

Under Illinois law, if you are found at least 50% at fault for your injury, you are not entitled to damages. In this case, that would be the other driver who was more at fault for the accident than you were.

The party who is less than 50% liable can still recover damages for their injuries, but those amounts are reduced by the percentage of responsibility they have for the accident. In this case, if you were found 20% liable for the accident, you’d get your reward amount reduced by 20%.

Subjectivity in Determining Fault

Under this law, there is obviously plenty of room for subjectivity. The evidence brought forth during a hearing can influence how a judge or jury may calculate your own level of fault in an accident. Knowing how this is often calculated is a matter of experience with how hearings commonly go in the state as well as your attorney’s skill in presenting your case. In many cases, an attorney can reduce the amount of liability you will bear for your injury.

As subjective as this may be sometimes, the cutoff point is highly strict—if you are found more than 50% at fault, the case will be decided in the defendant’s favor and you’ll be denied compensation. As such, it is vital that you make a strong case during settlement negotiations or court hearings.

Seeking Legal Assistance

In any personal injury claim, you need an experienced attorney. They can help establish and prove negligence on the part of the defendant while negotiating against any fault the opposition may try to pin on you. At Hart David Carson, LLP, we can provide you with the legal assistance and representation you need to come out on top in your personal injury claim, so contact us today for a consultation.

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