Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Comparative Negligence in Illinois
In lawsuits for damages, where there has been injury to a person or to property, Illinois uses a standard for sharing the responsibility called “comparative negligence.” According to this standard, the relative fault of each party to a lawsuit for negligence is considered and comes into play in deciding what damages the defendant must pay, and even whether damages are owed at all.
Comparative negligence in Illinois is somewhat of a compromise system. The defendant in a negligence action can make the case that the plaintiff who brought the lawsuit was also at fault, and therefore should bear some or all of the responsibility. If the plaintiff in fact had some responsibility in causing the accident, then the relative amount of each party’s fault will be determined.
The way this works is that if the defendant believes that the plaintiff was at least partly to blame for the accident or injuries, then that point is raised. Both parties’ actions are considered, and a percentage is determined that represents each person’s fault relative to the other. The money amounts in damages the defendant will owe the plaintiff will then be reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault in causing the accident. But if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, then the plaintiff will not be allowed to recover any money damages from the defendant.
For example, in a lawsuit involving a car accident, Driver A sues Driver B for negligence after his car was struck by Driver B’s car. Driver A claims that Driver B was driving too fast, and swerved into his lane. Driver B though, argues that Driver A was at fault, because he was not driving completely in his lane. Or in the case of a medical malpractice case against a physician, a patient suffers an injury because of a doctor’s mistaken diagnosis. But the physician claims that the patient failed to inform him of certain conditions and is responsible for the injuries as well.
In either scenario, the plaintiff’s percentage of responsibility in causing the accident or injuries will be calculated and used to reduce the amount the defendant may have to pay in damages. If the auto accident plaintiff or the patient plaintiff was 30% to blame, then the defendant will only have to pay 70% of the damage award. But the plaintiff might lose any right to damages at all, if his or her actions were more than 50% to blame.
This reduction in damage amount for comparative negligence does not come into play, though, where the conduct of the defendant that caused the injury or damage was intentional or purposeful. Then plaintiff’s conduct, though it may be negligent, will not cancel out any of the defendant’s more serious conduct.
Is any of this confusing? It can be. If you have questions about comparative negligence law or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. All calls are free and confidential.
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