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Shared Responsibility: Comparative Negligence

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fault, liability, Illinois personal injury attorneyAs we all know, and as has been passed down for generations in a proverb form, two wrongs do not make a right. In fact, when applied to an auto accident or other type of personal injury, two wrongs can actually create an even bigger problem. Countless television commercials, billboards, and phone book advertisements bombard you daily about your rights to collect compensation following an accident. What they may not tell you right away, though, is that your contribution to your own injuries can impact the amount you may be able to recover.

Determining Fault or Negligence

Assume for a moment that you are in your car, sitting at an intersection, waiting for the light to turn green. You are listening to music on the radio, but are not otherwise distracted by a cell phone, or any other additional stimulus. Without warning, a drunk driver slams into the back of your vehicle, causing extensive damage and leaving you with broken bones and a neck injury. While the other details of the case, including insurance coverage and criminal charges, may not be so clear, the assignment of fault in this example would be very straightforward. The actions of the drunk driver caused the accident and he or she would likely be completely liable for your injuries.

Now consider a more complex hypothetical situation. In this case, you are driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit while talking on a hand-held cellphone when another driver, who is also texting, runs a red light and broadsides your car. In this example, both you and the other driver were engaged in illegal—possibly considered negligent—behaviors that may be seen as contributing the subsequent accident and injuries. If you file a personal injury claim, it may be left to a judge or jury to determine each party's percentage of fault before damages can be awarded.

Reducing Damages

According to the law in Illinois, if you, the claimant, are found to be partially at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, your compensable damages will be reduced accordingly. The court will be tasked with assigning a percentage of liability to each responsibility, and your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence. If you are found to be more than 50 percent liable, you will be barred from recovery altogether.

Based on the complex example above, assume your losses, including medical bills, property damage, pain and suffering, and all others, totaled $100,000. The court, however, assigned 40 percent of the liability to your own negligence. Your recovery, therefore, would be reduced by 40 percent, and you would be able to collect $60,000.

Skilled Legal Help

If you have been involved in an accident and have questions about the viability of your claim, contact an experienced Will County personal injury attorney. We will review your case, address any concerns you may have, and assist you in understanding your available options. Schedule your free consultation today at the Law Offices of Tedone and Morton, P.C.

Sources:

http://insurance2.illinois.gov/autoinsurance/comp_Negl.asp

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=073500050K2-1116

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