How Does Comparative Negligence Apply to Premises Liability Claims?

Personal Injury

Injuries due to hazards on another party’s property may be compensable with personal injury damages. However, the circumstances of the injury may limit the amount one may recover in damages. For instance, Illinois makes use of comparative negligence laws that reduce damages if the injured party is partially at fault for their own injury. In some cases, it can even preclude someone from recovering damages at all.

Illinois Comparative Negligence Law

Illinois’s comparative negligence law states that if someone is partially at fault for their own injury, the damages they are entitled to recover are reduced in proportion to the amount of fault they have. For instance, if you have been injured on someone’s property and a jury finds you to be 20% at fault for that injury, your damages would be reduced by 20%.

It doesn’t stop there. If you are more than 50% at fault for your injury, you can’t recover damages at all.

Determining Whether Comparative Negligence Applies

In order to determine whether comparative negligence applies to your case, it’s first important to determine if the property owner could be considered negligent at all. If not, there is no point in calculating your contributory negligence since there is no case to pursue.

In order to be found negligent, the property owner needs to be shown to have:

  • Owed you a duty of care (such as if you were invited or permitted onto the property).
  • Been negligent in fulfilling that duty (such as by failing to remove a hazard on the property).
  • Caused your injury through that negligence.

Essentially, it needs to be proved that the defendant (i.e. the party you are suing) was aware of the hazard (or should have been aware) and failed to repair it or put up adequate warning signs.

From there, the defendant may attempt to show that you were in some way partially at fault for your own injury. For example, they may try to show that you acted in a reckless manner or otherwise neglected to act with a reasonable amount of caution. If they can succeed in proving that, they can reduce the amount they have to pay in damages or even overturn your lawsuit entirely.

Impact of Comparative Negligence on a Premises Liability Case

Normally, you’d be entitled to full damages to cover items such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, if you are found to be partially liable for your injury, those damages are reduced—if they aren’t lost altogether.

The end result may make recovering from your injury more difficult, particularly in cases where your damages are reduced significantly and where there is a low amount of pain and suffering. Depending on the circumstances, those cases may not even be viable.

Naturally, having a good attorney on your side and a collection of solid evidence—photos of the location where you were injured, medical records, eyewitness accounts, etc.—can help you improve your case. The impact of comparative negligence is often based on a fairly subjective assessment of how negligence can be weighted, so a good personal injury attorney could help offset that.

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