If you were involved in a car accident in Illinois and the attending police officer determined that you shared partial responsibility for the incident, you may wonder if your shared fault bars your ability to recover damages. The answer depends on how much fault you assume for the crash.
Every state follows some form of contributory/comparative negligence theory. Per the Illinois Department of Insurance, The Land of Lincoln adheres to the theory of comparative negligence. If you were in a car crash, it would be helpful to understand how comparative negligence laws may affect not only your ability to recover but also, the size of your recovery.
Understanding comparative negligence
In the most basic sense, comparative negligence laws determine how deciding parties will allocate the responsibility for an accident between the involved parties. These laws are important because rarely does an accident occur in which one party is solely at fault.
For example, say you were speeding right before the crash. The car that hit you rolled through the stop sign and made a right turn right as you were going through the intersection. Though you had the right of way, and though the other driver should have stopped, you should not have been speeding. Therefore, you both share some level of fault.
Illinois and modified comparative negligence
In some states, your shared fault completely bars your ability to recover damages. Fortunately, Illinois is not one of those states.
Under Illinois’s modified comparative negligence statute, you can recover damages so long as your percentage of fault does not meet or exceed 50%. However, the deciding parties will limit your recovery by the percentage of fault you assume. For instance, say the courts decide you were 25% at fault and your proposed award is $100,000. The courts would reduce your award by $25,000, or 25% of $100,000, leaving you with a total of $75,000.
Comparative negligence laws typically only come into play when you file a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced attorney can help you better understand the concept and what you can do to minimize your shared percentage of fault.