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Understanding Illinois Law Regarding Shared Fault in Personal Injury CasesIn the majority of injury-causing accidents, determining why an accident occurred is not simple and straightforward. There may be many variables that combined to cause a “perfect storm” of circumstances. For example, in a drunk driving accident, the driver’s intoxication may not be the only reason the accident occurred. It may also have been raining, the road may have been in poor condition, or the other driver involved in the collision may have glanced down at his or her phone moments before the crash. In situations involving shared fault, who is deemed legally responsible for the harm caused in the accident? Illinois follows a legal doctrine called modified comparative negligence when a person’s injury was partially his or her fault and partially the fault of another party.

Understanding Modified Comparative Negligence

There are two main ways that states handle personal injury cases involving shared liability: comparative negligence or contributory negligence. In states that follow the doctrine of contributory negligence, if an injured person contributed to his or her own injury, he or she cannot collect compensation. This is considered an unreasonable rule in many people’s eyes because a person who is only one percent at fault for an injury is barred from collecting compensation from a party who was 99 percent responsible. Fortunately, Illinois is a comparative negligence state. This means that an injured person can still collect damages even if he or she is partially at fault for the injury-causing accident.

Illinois followed a slightly modified version of comparative negligence which is sometimes referred to as the “51-Percent Bar.” According to the rules of modified comparative negligence, an injured party may be eligible for compensation as long as he or she was not 51 percent or more responsible for his or her injuries. However, the amount of compensation he or she can receive will be reduced according to his or her percentage of fault. For example, if an injured party requested $50,000 in a lawsuit for a slip and fall accident but the court found him to be 20 percent responsible for the accident, he would receive $40,000.   

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Can I Collect Compensation Even If I Was Partially Responsible for a Truck Accident?Imagine the following scenario: A man is driving down the freeway traveling about 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Suddenly, a large metal container falls off of a flatbed truck and onto the road in front of him. He slams on the brakes but still ends up colliding with the container. His car is totaled and he suffers a head injury and two broken bones in the truck accident. He wants to recover compensation for his damages but assumes that he cannot bring a successful injury claim because he was speeding at the time of the accident. However, according to Illinois’ modified comparative negligence law, he may still be entitled to compensation.

Modified Comparative Negligence in an Auto Accident Case

Rarely are injury lawsuits black and white, and determining who is at fault for a truck accident is almost never straightforward. It is possible that several different factors led to your accident, including your own actions. In the previous example, it could be argued that the driver’s speeding exacerbated the damages caused in the accident. Perhaps if the driver was driving the speed limit, his injuries and the damage to his car would not have been as severe.

Fortunately, in Illinois, you are still permitted to bring an injury claim against a negligent party as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. If your contributory fault, meaning your portion of the blame, is found to be 50 percent or less of the proximate cause of your injuries, you may still recover compensation. However, the amount of compensation you recover will be reduced in proportion to your portion of fault. 

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Orland Park personal injury attorneysWhen most people are involved in a negligence lawsuit, they expect at the end to receive sufficient compensation to address the harm they have suffered, and indeed, that is the aim of most proceedings. However, what many do not know is that their award will often be reduced, because it is rare that either the plaintiff or the defendant is totally blameless in an accident. This doctrine is referred to as comparative fault.

Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Fault

In most accident cases, the first question that is asked is who is at fault. Historically, under common law, if it was determined that the plaintiff played any role in their own injuries, it acted as a complete bar to recovery. The rationale at the time was that everyone had a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent themselves from sustaining injury, and if they failed in that duty, they might be barred from recovery.

Gradually, however, the states have begun to shy away from this rule, primarily on public policy grounds. Public policy is a concept that states that a law or decision should not shock the conscience of the public, and to completely deprive an injured plaintiff of recovery based on perhaps 5 percent contributory negligence was often seen as unjust. There are very few jurisdictions nowadays that retain the pure contributory negligence standard; almost all have shifted to the comparative fault standard (including Illinois), which holds that if a plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault for their own injuries, no recovery is possible.

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