What Does Comparative Negligence Mean in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Web Admin - Monday, March 11, 2019
Barrington car accident attorney comparative faultThe question of comparative negligence--sometimes referred to as contributory fault--often arises in an Illinois personal injury lawsuit. If you are seriously injured as the result of another party’s negligence and awarded damages of $100,000, you would expect to receive $100,000. However, under Illinois’ modified comparative negligence law (735 ILCS 5/2-1116), the total amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you, up to 50 percent. For example, if you are awarded $100,000 but found to be 25% at fault for the events which caused your injuries, your award will be reduced to $75,000. If you are assigned more than 50 percent of the blame, you are barred from receiving any compensation.

How Comparative Fault Is Determined Under Illinois Law

Fault is determined based on the evidence and the law. For example, if you are properly stopped at a red light and are rear-ended by a speeding driver, you did not do anything wrong. The driver behind you failed to obey the speed limit and to slow or stop to avoid a collision, so they would be assigned 100 percent of the fault. 

If, however, you were in the process of changing lanes when you collided with a speeding driver, each of you might be assigned part of the fault. You had a duty to make sure the lane was clear before moving into it. The other driver had a duty to obey the speed limit and to slow down to avoid a collision if possible. 

When fault must be apportioned, your attorney will thoroughly study the events leading to your injury. This effort may include reviewing physical evidence, interviewing witnesses, studying police reports, gathering medical records, and consulting with experts. Most commonly, your lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer will discuss the evidence and come to an agreement about the amount of damages and the division of fault. If no agreement can be reached through negotiation, you will have to go to court.

In a court trial, your attorney will argue that the defendant’s negligence was the primary or sole cause of the events that led to your injuries. Under Illinois law (735 ILCS 5/2-613(d)), the burden is on the defendant to show how your own negligence contributed to your injuries and to argue what percent of the fault should be assigned to you. The jury--or, in the case of a bench trial, the judge--will then decide how the fault should be apportioned.

Consult an Experienced Palatine Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been severely injured in a car accident or other incident resulting from another person or company’s carelessness, consult a knowledgeable Schaumburg civil litigation attorney for advice. Call the law offices of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC at 847-934-6000. There is no fee for your initial consultation.

Ken ApicellaAbout the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.


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