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How comparative negligence can play a part in your car accident case

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2024 | Car Accidents |

Most of the time, when we discuss motor vehicle accident lawsuits, we talk about relatively simple legal scenarios, such as when a drunk driver plows into a sober driver who is properly stopped at a stop light. In a case like that, the questions of negligence and liability are fairly straightforward. But many accidents are not so simple. Sometimes it isn’t easy to determine who was at fault. In some cases, multiple parties were at fault. The legal issues in these cases can be much more complicated than in a standard lawsuit.

Comparative negligence

Negligence is the key legal concept behind most personal injury lawsuits. The idea behind negligence is that all of us owe a duty of care to avoid or minimize the chances of causing an accident that might harm others. If we breach this duty, we act negligently. If, through our negligence, we cause an accident that hurts someone else, the injured person can hold us liable for their damages.

But what if the other party was also acting negligently? For instance, what if one party was speeding and the other failed to use their headlights as they should have on a rainy day?

In such a case, a court examines the degree to which each party was at fault for the accident, and expresses these degrees as percentages. For instance, one party might be 75% at fault and the other 25%.

This system is known as comparative negligence, and most states have some form of comparative negligence enshrined in their laws. Under Illinois law, a driver can collect compensation so long as they are less than 50% at fault. However, their recovery must be reduced in proportion to their share of fault.

An illustration

To illustrate how this works in practice, imagine a case where drivers Alex and Brent are in an accident. Both are injured. Alex sues Brent. The court reviews the evidence and determines that Alex was 25% at fault and Brent was 75% at fault.

Because Alex’s share of the fault is less than 50%, he can collect compensation from Brent. However, his compensation must be reduced in proportion to his share of fault, which is 25%. If he suffered $100,000 in damages, he can collect only $75,000 from Brent.

Now, remember that Brent was injured too. He might consider filing suit against Alex. However, Brent’s share of fault for the accident was 75%. Because this is over 50%, Brent cannot recover any compensation from Alex.