Establishing Negligence in Chicago Car Accident Cases


To recover damages, the claimant needs to show that the at-fault party caused the car wreck and that the accident led to their injuries. If you were injured in a car collision, you should reach out to a skilled car accident attorney today. A seasoned car accident lawyer with experience establishing negligence in Chicago car accident cases could help you recover the compensation that you deserve. Call today and set up a consultation.

What is Contributory Negligence?

In 1986, the State of Illinois abolished pure comparative negligence fault and replaced it with a new contributory negligence statute. Pure comparative fault meant that any party could recover for any percentage that the other party was at fault for. The new law specifies that if the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault, the defendant is not liable, and the plaintiff is barred from recovering damages.

For example, if the plaintiff’s damages are $100,000, and the jury determines that they are 51 percent at fault, the plaintiff gets nothing. Conversely, if the jury determines the defendant was 51 percent at fault, the plaintiff would get 51 percent of damages, in this case, $51,000.

Illinois also made another light modification regarding joint and several liability. If, for example, three defendants caused the act, those three defendants usually are jointly and severally responsible for all of the damages to the plaintiff.

If, however, one of the three defendants is less than 25 percent fault, they only have to pay their percentage of fault and the other two would split the remaining percentage of fault. For example, a plaintiff sues three defendants that caused an accident and the jury says defendant No. 1 is ten percent at fault, and defendant No. 2 is 45 percent, and the third is 45 percent in a case involving $100,000 in damages. Each defendant’s share of fault would translate to their share of the $100,000 of damages. Then, it gets more complicated. Defendant No. 1 is responsible for $10,000 worth of damages, but the plaintiff can recover all of the remaining $90,000 from either of the other two defendants. If defendant No. 2 is a business and defendant No. 3 is a person who otherwise is judgment-proof, the plaintiff can recover the remaining $90,000 from defendant No. 2 and be made whole.

Factors That Can Move Fault One Way or Another

There are several factors that can help with establishing negligence in Chicago car accident cases. In certain types of accidents, it is challenging to avoid some kind of comparative fault, depending on how the wreck happened and where the damage on the vehicles occurred. Based on the type of case and how the accident occurs, comparative fault can be a large factor.

For example, in an intersection accident, should the plaintiff have slowed and allowed the defendant to clear the intersection, or was the plaintiff speeding and that is why the defendant thought the intersection was clear and made a left-hand turn. Or the defendant is southbound and the plaintiff northbound, and the defendant wants to make a left-hand turn in an intersection. In rear-end car accident cases, it is difficult for the defendant who rear-ends someone to try to claim the plaintiff was somehow at fault, because the argument is that the defendant was following too closely and caused the accident.

Steps to Take After a Car Wreck to Help Establish Liability

Following a car wreck, the driver should make sure everyone is okay and seek medical treatment immediately if needed. They should contact emergency responders and ensure that the police make it to the scene. Getting a police report following a car crash is crucial.

Illinois law requires a party to get a police report issued within ten days after an accident. Insurance companies, which have become assertive in Illinois about denying claims, will be watching that ten-day requirement closely, so they can deny coverage. That is why it is important for someone in an accident to contact a lawyer soon after an accident. The lawyer can even help file that police report if contacted soon enough and help the injured person avoid being snared by a lack-of-notice claim.

An attorney could also assist with gathering and preserving evidence at the scene of the wreck. It is essential to take pictures, talk to witnesses, and get video footage if there is any available. Collecting evidence is imperative to establishing negligence in Chicago car accident cases.

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