If you were recently injured in a motor vehicle collision or another type of accident in Chicago, the losses you are experiencing can be devastating. In addition to the sheer pain and suffering you are experiencing as a result of the injury, you are likely receiving extensive medical treatments that are expensive, and in some cases your injuries may be so debilitating that you are unable to work. If you cannot work, you are also dealing with the harm of lost wages. While it can be difficult to even think about filing a lawsuit to seek financial compensation, it may be the only way to recover damages.
In some personal injury cases, however, the plaintiff learns that the defendant is arguing that she—the plaintiff—is partially to blame for the accident. What happens if you file a personal injury claim and the court says that you bear some responsibility for the crash? This question raises an issue of “contributory fault” or “comparative negligence.” In short, plaintiffs should know that they may still be able to recover damages even if they are partially to blame for a collision, but we will tell you more about how contributory fault works in Illinois.
Under Illinois law (735 ILCS 6/2-1116), contributory fault is defined as “any fault on the part of the plaintiff . . . which is a proximate cause of the death, bodily injury to person, or physical damage to property for which recovery is sought.” Contributory fault is typically a defense that is raised by the defendant to avoid being responsible for the full amount of damages sought by the plaintiff.
The statute clarifies that, as long as the plaintiff is not more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, then she is still eligible to recover damages. In other words, once the court says the plaintiff is 51 percent or more responsible, she then is barred from any recovery. But even if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault and 50 percent (or less) responsible, then her damages award will be reduced by the percentage by which the court determined her to be negligent. To get a better sense of how this works, it is usually easiest to consider a hypothetical example.
In a hypothetical example, imagine that the plaintiff is involved in a car accident with another vehicle. She files a claim against that driver, contending that the driver was traveling at a speed of 20 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time of the accident, which caused the collision. The plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $100,000. The defendant claims that the plaintiff was partially at fault for the collision since she was distracted at the time of the collision because she was eating a snack.
A jury decides that the plaintiff is 10 percent responsible. This means that her damages award of $100,000 will be reduced by the percentage of her fault, which is 10 percent (or $10,000). As such, the plaintiff would recover $90,000. This calculation would work similarly as long as the plaintiff is not 51 percent or more at fault. At that point, she would not be able to recover anything.
Do you have questions about personal injury claims and contributory fault? A Chicago personal injury lawyer can speak with you today. Contact Arami Law Office for more information.
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