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Understanding the Comparative Negligence Rule in Illinois Accident Cases

Do You Have a Personal Injury Case if You Are Partially at Fault in an Illinois Accident?

You may still have a case, even if you were partially at fault, provided that the amount of your fault is less than that of the defendant.

In Illinois, there is a legal concept known as comparative negligence, which governs how the responsibility for an accident will be divided between the parties who were involved in causing the accident in which bodily injury was suffered. Juries are instructed to consider the amount, on a proportional basis, to which the injured party’s own fault contributed to the cause of the accident.

As defined by Illinois Pattern Jury Instruction B10.03, a plaintiff may be contributorily negligent if:

  1. he fails to use ordinary care for his own safety; and
  2. his failure to use such ordinary care is a proximate cause of the injury.

If an injured person (the “plaintiff”) contributed to the cause of the accident, this will serve to either reduce the amount of damages awarded, or, in some instances, bar the person from obtaining any recovery of damages. The facts surrounding the accident, and the injured person’s own role in causing the accident – however small – must be considered.

What is the Comparative Negligence Rule in Illinois?

Under the comparative negligence rule in Illinois, the injured party (the “plaintiff”) may recover damages only if his or her contributory negligence was less than 50% of the total fault which resulted in the accident. (735 ILCS 5/2-1116). If the negligence attributable to the injured party was more than 50% of the total fault, he or she will be barred from receiving any recovery.

If the plaintiff’s contributory negligence, if any, is 50% or less of the total proximate cause of the injury, it does not bar a recovery. However, the total amount of damages to which he would otherwise be entitled is reduced in proportion to the amount of his negligence (his percentage of the fault).

On the other hand, if the plaintiff’s contributory negligence is more than 50% of the total proximate cause of the injury or damage for which recovery is sought, the defendant shall be found not liable, and there is no recovery of damages by the plaintiff. IPI B10.03.

How Do Juries Apply the Comparative Negligence Rule in a Typical Illinois Personal Injury Case?

Here is an example of how comparative negligence may be applied under Illinois law in a personal injury case, in which Driver A sues Driver B for injuries sustained in an intersection collision with Driver B. Driver A’s comparative negligence will reduce a recovery of damages by Driver A against Driver B.

In this example, both drivers have contributed to the fault in causing the accident:

  • Driver B sees the approaching vehicle operated by Driver A, but carelessly makes a left-hand turn in front of Driver A, striking Driver A’s vehicle and causing injury to Driver A. Driver B contributed to the cause of the accident by failing to yield to the approaching vehicle operated by Driver A.
  • Driver A entered the intersection lawfully on a green light, but at a speed that was 15 mph faster than the posted limit of 45 mph. Driver A was speeding, and it is therefore alleged that Driver A’s conduct also contributed to the cause of the accident.

The jury must now weigh the evidence and decide if Driver A was comparatively negligent, and by what percentage. If the jury decides that Driver A’s comparative negligence was less than 50%, a verdict will be returned in favor of Driver A, but the damages awarded will be reduced in proportion to Driver A’s own fault.

In this example, if the jury determines that Driver B was 80% at fault, and Driver A was 20% at fault, then Driver A, who was less than 50% at fault, will receive a verdict in his or her favor. However, the award of damages will be reduced to 80% of the total provable damages based on the amount of Driver A’s comparative negligence (reduced by 20%).

If the jury determines that Driver A’s damages (the total amount of Driver A’s pain and suffering, medical bills, etc.) was $100,000, then Driver A would receive an award of $80,000 ($100,000 less $20,000). Driver A’s damages are automatically reduced by Driver A’s comparative negligence.

Understanding and correctly applying the rule of comparative negligence can make a difference in your Illinois personal injury case. It is important to consider all the evidence that will be admitted to the jury, including evidence of the plaintiff’s contributory fault.

Give us a call. Let’s discuss your injury case today.

John J. Malm & Associates is a top-rated Illinois personal injury firm that exclusively represents individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident. We can evaluate whether your negligence will be an issue in your case, and help you minimize the effects comparative negligence on your damage recovery. Call in Naperville at 630-527-4177, or St. Charles at 630-524-2323, and receive a free consultation with John or one of our helpful attorneys. There is no obligation to speak with us. If you decide to retain us, there will be no fee charged unless and until we collect for you.

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