Comparative Negligence in Illinois Personal Injury Cases

Illinois Personal Injury LawsuitsThe primary role of the jury in an Illinois personal injury lawsuit is to determine whether the named defendant was responsible for the accident resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries. In so doing, the jury must consider all the evidence presented and come to a reasoned conclusion based on that evidence. Frequently, the question comes up, what if the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident resulting in their injuries?

Defendants in Illinois car wreck cases and slip and fall claims will often argue that the accident victim was at least partially responsible for their own injuries. For example, a defendant may argue that a plaintiff failed to exercise caution when they slipped and fell on the defendant’s property, or that a car accident victim’s negligence contributed to the accident. These questions implicate the doctrine of comparative negligence.

Comparative negligence is the legal concept that determines which accident victims can recover for their injuries. It used to be that a plaintiff who shared even the slightest amount of responsibility for an accident could not recover for their injuries because they were considered to have been contributorily negligent. However, in a 1981 case, the Illinois Supreme Court abandoned the defense of contributory negligence in favor of pure comparative negligence.

Under the pure comparative negligence standard, any accident victim, regardless of their percentage of fault, could recover for their injuries. Rather than bar an at-fault accident victim from pursuing a claim against other at-fault parties, the doctrine reduced the victim’s amount of compensation by their percentage of fault. For example, a plaintiff who sustained $300,000 in damages and was 60 percent at fault would recover $120,000 (40 percent of the $300,000 damages figure).

In response to the court’s decision to abandon the defense of contributory negligence, in 1986, Illinois lawmakers passed a law again changing how courts determine which plaintiffs are eligible to recover for their injuries. The passage of the 1986 law moved Illinois from a pure comparative negligence state to a modified comparative negligence state. In many cases, the doctrine operates identically to how it did prior to 1986; however, under the modified comparative negligence doctrine, plaintiffs who are more than 50 percent at fault are prohibited from recovering for their injuries. The exception to this is when the plaintiff was injured as the result of the defendant’s intentional “willful and wanton” conduct. In these cases, mere negligence on the plaintiff’s part will not reduce their damages award or prevent them from recovering.

Have You Been Injured in an Illinois Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Illinois car accident, contact the dedicated Illinois injury lawyers at the law firm of Abels & Annes, P.C. At our Chicago law firm, we represent clients who have been involved in life-changing accidents. We routinely settle significant value cases on behalf of our clients, while never shying away from a trial if the other side is not willing to engage in fair negotiations. We represent clients across Illinois in all types of injury claims. To learn more, call 312-924-7575 to schedule a free consultation today.

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