You often hear about personal injury lawsuits claiming that a person, group or company is guilty of negligence. But what constitutes negligence and how will it impact your Illinois personal injury claim? To answer this question, we should examine the theory behind Illinois negligence laws.
Definition of Negligence
Dictionary.com defines negligence as “the failure to exercise that degree of care that, in the circumstances, the law requires for the protection of other persons or those interests of other persons that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care.”
Put more simply, there are many scenarios where a certain standard of conduct must be adhered to. If someone fails to maintain this standard, then they may be guilty of negligence. This can include injuries that are a result of someone’s actions or inaction.
Some common examples of negligence include:
- Reckless or careless driving which causes an Illinois car accident;
- Mistakes by physicians which lead to injury or death (usually called medical malpractice);
- The release of harmful substances into soil or bodies of water by manufacturers; and
- Poorly-maintained structures which collapse or cause injuries to their occupants.
Modified Comparative Fault and Illinois Negligence Law
Negligence laws differ across the United States, but Illinois negligence law follows what is known as a modified comparative fault system. This is a specific type of comparative negligence system which assigns relief or compensation based on how much fault lies with each party.
In states which embrace this doctrine, a court establishes how much blame should be assigned to each party, and then damages are adjusted accordingly. Illinois’ modified comparative fault system can be viewed as a comparative negligence system with a maximum “fault percentage” past which parties cannot be compensated for damages.
In addition, Illinois negligence laws utilize what is commonly referred to as the 51% rule. This means that if an Illinois court rules that a party is 51% or more responsible for an accident or incident, they are not entitled to any damages. The argument behind the 51% rule is that the person or entity that is mostly responsible for an accident-i.e., the more negligent party-should not be able to receive compensation from it.
Example of Illinois Modified Comparative Negligence Laws
Let’s use an example to better illustrate how Illinois’ modified comparative negligence system works. We’ll pretend that 3 male drivers were involved in an auto accident on an Illinois highway and were partially at fault for the accident. We’ll assume that a court subsequently determined that Driver A was 15% at fault, Driver B was 30% at fault and Driver C was 55% at fault.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s also assume that each driver sustained $100,000 in total damages as a result of the accident. Under Illinois modified comparative negligence laws, Driver A would receive 85% (100% minus 15%) of the damages to which he was entitled; in this case, that would be $85,000. Similarly, Driver B would receive just $70,000, which is 70% (100% minus 30%) of what he was entitled in compensation.
But because Driver C’s percentage of blame is 55%, he would not receive any damages. Since his fault percentage exceeded 51%, Driver C is considered primarily responsible for the accident-and therefore would not get any compensation.
Elements of Negligence
In the eyes of the law, there are 5 conditions which must be met before negligence can occur, including:
- the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- the defendant breached that duty;
- the defendant’s conduct caused harm to the plaintiff;
- the harm caused was foreseeable; and
- damages resulted from the defendant’s conduct.
There are numerous factors which can determine whether negligence is present, as well as how much fault is assigned to each party involved. If you have any questions about Illinois modified comparative negligence laws or how they might apply to your case, you should consult with a south side Chicago injury lawyer.
Hiring a South Side Chicago Injury Lawyer
With serious accident injuries, such as severe head trauma and spinal injuries, it’s always best to consult a medical professional to help with diagnosis and treatment.
During this time, recovering from your injuries should be your main focus, not dealing with insurance adjusters and escalating medical bills, not to mention deciphering Illinois modified comparative negligence laws and how they apply to your case. Retaining the legal services of a south side Chicago injury lawyer can help you focus on recovery while your attorney deals with the insurance companies and issues of Illinois negligence law on your behalf.
A south side Chicago injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Barry G. Doyle, P.C. will help you monitor your medical expenses and work toward a settlement to cover all of the treatments you need to get your life back on track. Before making any decisions, order a copy of our free accident book, When You Are Injured – The Insider’s Guide to Illinois Accident Law. When you are ready to get your claim started, contact us today for a free case evaluation – 312-263-1080.