Understanding Illinois Law Regarding Comparative Fault

When a car accident, slip-and-fall, or any other type of injury-causing accident occurs, determining who was at fault is an important element of the case. Assigning fault typically determines which party will be responsible for paying for any resulting injuries or property damages. In some situations, fault is fairly easy to determine. For example, a driver who runs a red light and hits a pedestrian who was legally crossing the street would probably be considered at fault. In other situations, the determination of fault is more complex, as two or more parties may each have contributed to the accident occurring. When fault is shared in an Illinois accident, liability may be shared as well.

Pure Contributory Negligence

In the United States, three basic models of comparative fault are currently in use. Each one addresses how collectable damages may be impacted when an injured victim is at least partly responsible for causing the accident. The first type is known as “pure contributory negligence” and is the least common. Only four states and Washington D.C. maintain pure contributory negligence laws. These laws state that if an injured party shares any of the liability for the accident, he or she may not collect any damages at all. This means that the defendant could be 95 percent responsible for the accident and still avoid paying damages if the victim was found to be just 1 percent at fault.

Pure Comparative Fault

The next model is known as “pure comparative fault” and is the functional opposite of the pure contributory negligence. Under a pure comparative fault system, a plaintiff can collect from a defendant even if the plaintiff was 99 percent responsible for the accident. Any collectable damages must be reduced by the victim’s percentage of fault, but recovering compensation is possible. California, Missouri, and 11 other states use a pure comparative fault rule.

Modified Comparative Fault

The last and most common model is used in 33 states, including Illinois. It is called “modified comparative fault,” and there are two slightly different versions. Illinois utilizes the one that applies the 51 percent rule, which allows an injured victim to collect damages as long as he or she is not more at fault than the defendant. If the plaintiff is 51 percent responsible, recovery is barred. (Under the other version, the 50 percent rule, the plaintiff must be less at fault than the defendant, meaning that a victim who is 50 percent at fault cannot collect.)

The damages collected by the victim are reduced by the victim’s percentage of liability. For example, if you are determined to be 20 percent responsible for a crash that caused you to suffer damages and injuries totaling $250,000, your recovery would be reduced by 20 percent. Only $200,000 would be collectable.

Call Us for Help

If you were involved in an accident and fault is not clear, contact an experienced Wheaton personal injury lawyer. We will conduct a thorough investigation and help ensure your rights are fully protected. Call 630-462-1980 for a free consultation at Walsh, Knippen & Cetina, Chartered today.





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