Accidents happen when we least expect them, and when they do, they can result in injuries that profoundly impact our lives. If you have been injured in an accident in Illinois, you need to understand the legal concept of comparative fault and its implications for your personal injury claim.
Illinois follows a “modified comparative fault” system, distinct from other states’ pure comparative and pure contributory fault systems. This article will discuss the types of comparative fault systems and how the percentage of fault is determined after an accident.
What Is Comparative Fault?
Comparative fault is also known as comparative negligence. It is a legal principle used to determine the degree of fault of each party involved in an accident that resulted in personal injuries.
It allows a more equitable distribution of responsibility and compensation in personal injury cases. Illinois recognizes comparative fault but uses a modified comparative fault system.
Modified Comparative Fault in Illinois
The modified comparative fault system operates under the 51% rule in Illinois. This means that an injured party can recover damages from the at-fault party if their fault does not exceed 50%.
However, if the injured party is found to be 51% or more at fault for the accident, they are barred from recovering any damages. Understanding this system is critical, considering it directly impacts your ability to seek compensation for your injuries.
For example, if you were involved in a car accident and a court determines that you were 30% at fault for the collision while the other driver was 70% at fault, you can still pursue a personal injury claim against the other driver. This being said the damages you can recover will be reduced by your percentage of fault, in this example, by 30%.
Pure Comparative Fault
Some states employ a pure comparative fault system. In states that use a pure comparative fault system, injured parties can seek compensation regardless of their percentage of fault. Still, their awarded damages are reduced by their share of responsibility.
For instance, if you were found 40% at fault in a comparative fault state, you could still pursue a claim against the other party, but your damages would be reduced by 40%.
Pure Contributory Fault
On the other hand, other states follow a pure contributory fault system, which is much stricter. In these states, if an injured party is even at fault for 1% of the accident, they are entirely barred from recovering any damages. This system is much less forgiving than the modified comparative and pure comparative fault systems.
How Can You Determine the Percentage of Fault in an Accident?
Determining the percentage of fault in an accident is critical in resolving personal injury claims. Several factors are taken into account when assessing the percentage of fault:
- Investigation and Gathering Evidence — The process begins with a thorough investigation of the accident. This includes collecting evidence like photographs, witness statements, accident reports, and any available video footage. Your personal injury attorney may work with accident reconstruction experts to recreate the sequence of events.
- Interviewing Witnesses — Statements from eyewitnesses who saw the accident occur can provide valuable insight into what happened and who may be at fault. Witness statements can help establish the facts about the accident.
- Reviewing Police Reports — Law enforcement officers who respond to the scene of an accident often prepare an accident report. These reports typically include details about the accident, any citations issued, and the officers’ opinions on who was at fault. While police reports can be influential, they are not the sole determination of who was at fault.
- Expert Opinions — Experts such as accident reconstruction specialists or engineers may be consulted in complex cases. They can analyze the evidence and provide professional opinions on factors like vehicle speeds, road conditions, and the mechanics of the accident.
- Review Traffic Laws and Regulations — Traffic laws and regulations play a significant role when determining fault in an accident. Violations of traffic laws, such as running a red light or speeding, can establish negligence on the part of one or more parties involved.
- Comparative Negligence Analysis — In states that use comparative fault systems, like Illinois with its modified comparative fault system, each party’s actions leading up to and during the accident are assessed. This analysis considers how the actions of everyone involved contributed to the accident.
- Negotiation and Legal Proceedings — After gathering all evidence and considering the abovementioned factors, the parties involved, their attorneys, and insurance companies may negotiate to reach a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may go to court, where a judge or jury will ultimately determine each party’s fault percentage.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer
While hiring a personal injury lawyer may seem like an added expense after getting into an accident, it is an investment in your future. They can navigate the legal process, gather evidence, and advocate on your behalf to ensure that fault is determined accurately and fairly.
Personal Injury Lawyers Near Chicago, Illinois
Understanding comparative fault is essential in Illinois when pursuing a personal injury claim. The state’s modified comparative fault system can significantly impact the amount of damages you can recover.
The lawyers at Pullano & Siporin have over 50 years of combined experience handling personal injury cases in Chicago, Illinois. We can help you investigate your claim, gather evidence, and help you take the next step to ensure your compensation.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.