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Understanding Fault in Illinois
The Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. recognize the difficulties that car accident victims may have in understanding the meaning, application, and legal significance of the terms ‘contributory fault’ and ‘comparative negligence.’ For many, being injured, or losing a loved one due to a crash, may be the first event in your life that required the assistance of a legal professional. As a starting point, it is helpful to know some basic principles of law, and the role that fault can play in a claimant’s ability to recover damages caused due to auto wreck that occurred in Illinois.
Establishing fault is a necessary component to imposing liability upon a person or entity in most civil actions. In general, the term fault refers to the breach of a duty of care that causes injury or harm to a person or property. Fault includes both actions, as well as the failures to act (omissions), and can involve negligent, intentional, unlawful and/or reckless conduct. It is important to keep in mind that the recovery of damages does not require the allocation of fault solely upon one individual. In fact, fault can be distributed (apportioned) between two, and in some cases multiple individuals.
In some auto negligence cases, the issue of fault has been previously resolved whether through party admission, or agreement between parties. However, where fault remains ‘at issue,’ the more critical consideration is the extent of fault that can be attributed to each party. The threshold level of fault required to recover damages varies by state. In Illinois, the law restricts an award for damages if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault. Some refer to this as the ’51 percent rule,’ meaning that regardless as to whether the plaintiff contributed to their own injury or harm, they can still recover damages, so long as they were not more than half at fault.
At Zneimer & Zneimer P.C., our attorneys know that properly assessing the existence or extent of a plaintiff’s contributory fault is an important consideration following a car accident, and for many reasons. First, whenever there is a dispute over fault, the law in Illinois requires that any fault attributed to the plaintiff, be compared to the fault of other tortfeasors. This comparison is important because it establishes whether the plaintiff’s fault exceeds the threshold level, such that recovery is barred.
In addition, effectively evaluating fault involves more than just ensuring that any contributory fault of the plaintiff falls below the legal threshold. This is because the percentage of fault assigned to each party has a direct impact on the amount of damages awarded. Consider a two car accident in which the Plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault, with damages totaling $100,000. Here, the Plaintiff’s damages must be reduced by their percentage of fault, resulting in an award for $80,000.
Perhaps most important to keep in mind is the role of the jury in assigning fault and evaluating liability. Consider cases in which the jury is left to deliberate BOTH assignment of fault, as well as amount of damages. A skilled trial attorney can limit the issues presented to the jury, while also ensuring that sufficient evidence is provided to effectively persuade the trier-of-fact on the issues that are left for juror deliberation.
Particularly when the issue of fault is disputed in a car accident, it is critical to consider the advantage of having a trial attorney that has the expertise and litigation experience to provide effective advocacy throughout all stages of the claims process, and that is prepared to take your matter to trial. During our 35+ years in practice, the Chicago Personal Injury attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have maintained a dedication to putting the maximum amount of money in the victim’s pocket. We have the knowledge, resources, and legal know-how to attain results, and want to the same for you.
If you or a family member were involved in a car accident, and would like to discuss your entitlement to compensation for your injury or loss, contact the Chicago attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. at 773-516-4100, to schedule your FREE personal injury consultation today.