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What Is Comparative Negligence?

What is comparative negligence? In situations where multiple parties are involved in an accident, the concept of comparative negligence comes into play. If you are found to be partially responsible for the incident, your damages will be reduced accordingly. While in some cases determining fault is straightforward, in more complex situations, one or more parties may share the blame, including the victim themselves. It is important to have a clear understanding of the negligence laws to determine the strength of your claim.

Negligence in Personal Injury Cases

Negligence refers to the failure of a person to exercise the appropriate level of care towards another individual in a given situation. This can include both acts and omissions. In the majority of personal injury cases, negligence is the basis for legal action. Simply put, individuals are expected to act in accordance with certain standards, and if they fail to do so and someone is injured as a result, they may be required to compensate the injured party.

Burden of Proof in Negligence Cases

During the personal injury claims process, the burden of proof refers to the level of proof that a party has to provide in order to win a case in court. In a negligence case, the plaintiff must prove each element of his or her cause of action by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence means that the plaintiff must provide more credible evidence than the defendant to prove his or her case.

To meet the preponderance of the evidence standard, the evidence presented must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant was responsible for the accident. This means the plaintiff must show that the defendant was more than 50% likely to have caused the accident due to their actions. If the jury finds that a particular fact is more likely than not true, they must find it to be true.

What Are the Four Elements of Negligence?

To successfully win a negligence case, your auto accident lawyer must prove four elements that indicate the defendant acted negligently:

Duty of Care

When evaluating a claim of negligence, the initial step is to determine whether the defendant was legally obligated to owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. In certain circumstances, the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant may create such an obligation, such as in the case of a doctor who is required to provide competent medical care to a patient. Alternatively, the defendant may have a legal duty to act with reasonable care in a specific situation – like when operating a motor vehicle with a reasonable level of caution and safety.

Breach of Duty

The court will then assess whether the defendant breached this duty. This assessment is based on what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. This legal standard represents how an average person would act responsibly. If the defendant breached this duty by doing something that the average person, who knew what the defendant knew at the time, would not have done could result in someone suffering injuries, then the defendant is likely to be considered to have breached this duty. In other words, if the average person would have acted differently than the defendant did in that situation, the defendant is negligent.

Causation

Causation requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence was the actual cause of his or her injury. It is not enough for someone to simply be acting negligently; the injury must be a direct result of that negligence. For instance, suing a person for a car accident that happened across the street and caused no injury to the plaintiff, even though the person was negligently texting and driving, would not be fair.

Another aspect of this element looks at whether the defendant could have reasonably foreseen that his or her actions might cause an injury. If the injury was caused by a random and unexpected act of nature, it would be deemed unforeseeable, and the defendant would not be held liable.

Damages

The final element that needs to be established is damages. The court needs to be able to compensate the plaintiff for the injury he or she has suffered, typically through monetary compensation. The compensation covers expenses such as medical care or property repair.

Comparative Negligence Laws in Illinois

Determining negligence can be a challenging task, especially in complicated cases. If assigning negligence is not easily possible, comparative negligence is used to apportion the fault.

Illinois’ Modified Comparative Negligence System

Comparative negligence rules are used to determine the percentage of blame and responsibility for paying damages in an accident. Each party involved is assigned a percentage of blame based on his or her negligence. According to these rules, the victim’s recovery for damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to him or her. This concept is also known as “apportionment of fault” or “allocation of fault.”

For example, if you are making a left turn at an intersection without exercising proper caution, and the other driver is speeding, causing a collision that results in personal injury and property damage, both parties have breached their duty of care and share some of the fault. The other driver’s speeding is a clear cause of the accident, while you should have exercised more caution before making the turn.

If you file a personal injury claim against the other driver, claiming damages of $50,000, and a jury finds that your own negligence contributed to the accident by 20% while the other driver’s negligence contributed by 80%, you would only be able to recover $40,000 ($50,000 reduced by 20%).

Pure Comparative Negligence vs. Modified Comparative Negligence

There are two types of comparative negligence:

Pure Comparative Negligence

Even if the defendant only had a small responsibility for the accident, you can still recover damages under pure comparative negligence. For instance, if the defendant is found to be only 1% at fault for an accident, you could still receive compensation for 1% of your damages. However, Illinois does not follow this method of calculating negligence.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Illinois follows a modified comparative negligence standard for damage recovery. Using modified comparative negligence, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced proportionally to the percentage of blame assigned to you. However, if you are found to be equally negligent or more responsible for the accident, you will not receive any compensation.

How Comparative Negligence Impacts Liability

If someone is responsible for an accident, he or she is considered liable and must compensate you for your losses accordingly. If your negligence contributed to the accident, under comparative negligence rules, that person’s liability is reduced.

Defense Strategies in Comparative Negligence Cases

When you’re seeking compensation from someone, he or she may try to weaken your claim by presenting his or her own evidence. If you were partially or entirely at fault for the incident that caused your injury, the defendant may use your amount of negligence as a defense strategy. The defendant may ask for his or her share of the fault, and therefore liability, to be reduced based on your actions leading up to the accident. The defendant might even argue that your negligence played a bigger role than his or hers in the accident, making him or her not liable at all. This defense is frequently used after a car accident.

The Importance of Gathering Evidence and Expert Testimony

To win a negligence case, you need to provide clear and complete evidence. If you have questions about when you should hire a personal injury lawyer, you should do so as soon as possible so that he or she can gather strong evidence for your claim. This evidence may include:

Documentation

Having proper documentation that supports your injuries is crucial. This documentation may include any information related to your injuries from medical professionals and incident reports. It is important to have medical bills, proof of lost income, receipts for expenses and damage repairs, and any other supporting evidence that can prove your damages. Gathering all of this information is essential to your case and it will help strengthen your position.

Evidence From the Accident Scene

Visual evidence, such as photos and videos from the accident scene, can be helpful in determining the sequence of events and assigning blame. The court considers various pieces of evidence such as damage, skid marks, and other factors to determine what happened and who was responsible.

There are various means to acquire photographic or video proof, from dashcams, surveillance cameras, street cameras, security cameras, or smartphones that might have recorded the specifics of an accident or an occurrence.

Witness Testimony

Obtaining testimony from witnesses at the site of the accident can assist in reconstructing the events that took place and identifying the responsible party. Other witnesses, such as medical professionals and accident reconstruction engineers, can provide additional information about your injuries or the probable cause of the car accident.