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How Comparative Fault Affects Personal Injury Cases

Posted on in Personal Injury

How Comparative Fault Affects Personal Injury CasesObtaining compensation in a personal injury case relies upon proving the defendant’s negligence. Illinois law defines negligence as failing to act in a manner that a reasonably careful person would or acting in a manner that a reasonably careful person would not. However, both sides can be negligent in a personal injury case. The idea of shared blame is often called comparative fault. If a jury decides that a plaintiff's negligence partially caused his or her injuries, it may award reduced damages or no damages at all.

Comparative Fault

A jury in a personal injury case must first determine whether the defendant is at fault for the plaintiff's injury. If the jury rules in favor of the plaintiff, it moves on to determining how much compensation is owed and whether there was comparative fault by the plaintiff. Illinois law instructs the jury to quantify the plaintiff’s share of the responsibility for the injuries in terms of a percentage:

  • If the plaintiff was not at fault, he or she will receive all of the damages awarded in the decision;
  • If the plaintiff was 50 percent or less at fault for the injuries, the jury must reduce the awarded damages by the same percentage; and
  • If the plaintiff is more than 50 percent at fault for the injuries, no damages will be awarded.

States have drastically different comparative fault laws that can heavily favor the plaintiff or defendant. Illinois’ modified comparative fault law falls in the middle of the two extremes. Pure contributory negligence states will not award damages to plaintiffs who were at all negligent. Pure comparative fault states allow plaintiffs to obtain some damages even if they were more at fault than the defendants.

Disproving Negligence

As with proving fault, the plaintiff in a personal injury case must present enough evidence to persuade the jury that he or she was not negligent. The defense will likely have its own evidence that tries to prove the plaintiff’s negligence. The plaintiff may need to show that he or she:

  • Took reasonable precautions to avoid injury;
  • Could not have foreseen the accident that caused the injury;
  • Was not committing any illegal activities; and
  • Sought immediate medical treatment to prevent the injury from worsening.

Determining Liability

Accidents that lead to injuries often occur so quickly that it can be difficult to explain what happened. A Barrington personal injury attorney at Lucas Law, can help you organize your thoughts and identify the key evidence in your case. To schedule a consultation, call 847-381-8700.


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