15 Sep, 2023

Is Illinois a Comparative Negligence State for Car Accidents?

Author Todd A. Strong
The driver is calling for insurance after a traffic accident. Is Illinois a Comparative Negligence State
The driver is calling for insurance after a traffic accident. Is Illinois a Comparative Negligence State

Is Illinois a comparative negligence state? In Illinois, modified comparative negligence is the prevailing standard for assessing fault in car accidents. Determining fault in such cases can prove to be challenging. You would need to establish that the other driver was at fault, but even if that's the case, he or she may escape some legal liability by demonstrating that you also played a part. Comparative negligence rules, which allocate fault between parties, can reduce the amount of compensation that you can claim.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover after an accident, according to his or her portion of fault.

What Is Fault in a Car Accident?

The term "fault" is a legal concept that means someone is responsible for causing harm, usually due to negligence. In the case of a car accident, fault can be attributed to a driver who is negligent by doing something he or she shouldn't have, such as running a red light or speeding. A driver can also be negligent by failing to do something he or she should have, such as yielding to pedestrians or turning on headlights at night.

Essentially, drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others. If they fail to do so, and someone is injured as a result, the driver can be held financially liable for the victim's losses and injuries.

There are numerous ways in which a driver can be deemed negligent, including:

  • Going through an intersection after the traffic light has already turned red
  • Not using a turn signal when approaching an intersection and instead making a left or right turn 
  • Following too closely behind another vehicle in stop-and-go traffic, resulting in a rear-end collision
  •  Driving distracted, such as using a phone, eating, or engaging in other activities while behind the wheel.

When it comes to personal injury cases, determining who is at fault for the accident or incident that caused the injury is crucial. However, in some cases, it may not be clear-cut who is responsible for the accident. So, what happens if you share some of the responsibility for the accident?

Most states have comparative negligence systems in place to divide fault between parties involved in an accident. There are two types of comparative negligence: Pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence.

Pure Comparative Negligence Rules

In states with pure comparative negligence laws, you may receive compensation for your injuries as long as you were not 100% at fault for the accident. For example, if you were found to be 20% at fault, you could receive 80% of your total damages. Even if you were 99% at fault, you could still collect 1% of your damages.

Modified Comparative Negligence Rules

Most comparative negligence states follow a modified system. In some states, you can only recover damages if you are less than 50% at fault for the accident. If you are found to be 49% at fault, you can receive 51% of your damages. However, if a jury determines that you were 50% or more at fault, you will not receive any damages.

In other modified comparative fault states, such as Illinois, you can recover damages only if you are 50% or less at fault. If you are found to be 51% or more at fault, you will not receive any damages.

For example, you may be driving safely when another driver negligently makes a left turn and hits you, while you are going over the speed limit. This causes you to suffer injuries, so you sue the other driver for negligence. However, the other driver claims that you were also at fault for speeding.

The case goes to court in Bloomington, Illinois, where a jury determines that the other driver is 75% at fault for making an unsafe left turn. The jury also finds you to be 25% at fault for speeding. If your damages amount to $10,000, you will be able to receive $7,500 compensation. This is because your damages of $10,000 will be reduced by $2,500, which 25%, in accordance with your level of comparative fault.

To be considered partially at fault for an auto accident, your negligence must have actually contributed to causing the accident. For instance, if the jury decides that your speeding didn't contribute to causing the accident, you wouldn't be held responsible and could recover your total damages of $10,000.

Determining Fault After a Bloomington Car Accident

To prove liability in a car accident case, it is necessary to demonstrate negligence. Negligence in car accident cases is proven through the use of evidence, such as photos, videos, witness statements, police reports, and accident reconstructionists. To establish that a party was at-fault for a crash, the victim must prove four elements:

The Other Driver Owed You a Duty of Care

According to the law, all road users, including drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, have a legal obligation to act in a manner that is unlikely to cause harm to others. Drivers are expected to exercise reasonable caution in all aspects of vehicle operation. Therefore, if you are in an accident with another driver, this duty of care is a given.

Breach of the Duty of Care

When someone creates a situation that goes beyond the reasonable level of risk in a given circumstance, he or she is violating the duty of care. This violation is often the cause of accidents, which occur due to carelessness or negligence. For instance, if a driver is cited for a traffic violation during an accident, it is likely that he or she violated the duty of care. A reasonable driver is expected to follow traffic rules such as stopping at red lights, watching for pedestrians, and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

The Other Driver's Conduct Caused Your Injuries

If the other driver is negligent, it does not necessarily mean he or she is responsible for your injuries. The accident and your subsequent injuries must have been directly caused by his or her actions, and it must be shown that they would not have happened if the driver had taken more care.

You Suffered Damages

You can receive compensation for a variety of damages after an accident, such as lost wages, injuries, pain and suffering, and damage to your vehicle. However, to receive compensation, it must be proven that the other driver was at fault and that there were actual damages incurred as a result of his or her negligence. Without proof of loss, you will not be able to recover anything, so it is important to know how to document injuries after a car accident.

To establish fault on the part of the other driver, it is crucial to collect relevant evidence. This includes:

  • Obtaining any police reports
  • Taking photographs of the accident scene,
  • Gathering witness statements,
  • Obtaining medical records and bills related to any injuries sustained in the accident,
  • Obtaining vehicle damage inspection reports and repair estimates
  • Providing documentation of missed work and lost income

How Does Comparative Negligence Affect Car Accident Settlements?

When a car accident occurs, the insurance company of the driver at fault usually settles the claim. The insurer will base its offer on the degree of its insured's negligence. They can interview everyone involved, including witnesses, and review the accident report to determine the amount of their offer. The insurer may consider that its insured was not more than 50% at fault and may not offer to pay any damages for the loss. The injured party can negotiate with the insurer until they reach a settlement or an impasse. If no agreement can be reached, the courts will decide on the percentage of fault attributable to each party.

What Are the Comparative Negligence Laws in Illinois?

Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state. Therefore, if you are in an accident caused by another driver, you may have a claim for damages. If you were also negligent, but your portion of the fault contributed less than 51% to the accident, your damages will be reduced by a percentage equal to your percentage of fault.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You

When it comes to making a successful car accident claim, a lot of work and investigation is necessary behind the scenes. That's where an accident attorney can help. If you’re wondering when to get a car accident lawyer, the earlier in the process, the better. Your attorney can assist you by:

Offering Legal Advice

After being involved in an accident, receiving varied advice can be overwhelming. You may come across an article online with one viewpoint, while friends or family may offer their own opinions. This can leave you feeling unsure of the best way to handle your situation.

In such cases, it is often recommended to seek the guidance of a car accident injury lawyer. These legal professionals are well-versed in the procedures that should be followed after an accident. They have extensive knowledge, gained through years of education, training and practical experience in dealing with car accident claims. By analyzing the specifics of your case, they can provide you with the most suitable advice on how to pursue the full financial compensation you deserve.

Assess Your Full Damages

When dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, it's natural to focus on the immediate costs. However, your lawyer will take into account all the ways that the accident has impacted your life, both now and in the future. This includes your current and future medical treatment costs, any impact the injuries have had on your ability to work, and the emotional toll the incident may have taken on you.

By evaluating all of your damages, your car accident lawyer can provide an accurate estimate of the total costs associated with the accident. This ensures that you don't end up being responsible for bills that you hadn't anticipated. The insurance company is unlikely to help you in this regard, so it's best to hire an experienced car accident attorney to guide you through the process.

Investigate Your Case

In addition to reviewing evidence, such as witness statements and photos, your Bloomington car accident lawyer may bring in outside experts, including retired police officers or his or her own investigators. Your attorney may even recreate the accident scene to clarify any uncertainties. Your attorney, or his or her investigative team, might visit the accident site to gather evidence and make observations. He or she will also obtain a copy of the accident report and review your medical records related to your injuries. These measures are taken to build the strongest possible case.

Although it is possible to handle your own case following a car accident, it is not advisable. Professional training and experience put a car accident attorney in a much stronger position to secure the compensation you need after a collision.

While you have to pay your attorney if you receive compensation, statistics show that accident victims who hire a lawyer generally receive much more money than those who represent themselves.

Your attorney can build your case, and communicate with all other relevant parties. He or she can assist with your claim by:

  • Investigating the details of the accident.
  • Gathering all relevant evidence.
  • Building and filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
  • Negotiating for a fair settlement on your behalf during the insurance claims process in Bloomington if the insurance company tries to lowball you.
  • Filing a lawsuit if necessary.

If you're involved in a car accident and the other driver claims that you share fault for the accident, it's important to seek help. In Illinois, which is a pure comparative fault state, the value of your claim can be significantly reduced. A Bloomington car accident lawyer is familiar with the shared fault rules in your state and can help guide you toward the best possible outcome for your claim.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.