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Personal Injury in Illinois: What is Comparative Negligence?

Hurt in an accident in Illinois? You have the right to hold the at-fault party—the party whose negligence caused your accident—legally liable for your damages. A personal injury claim can include compensation for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other types of damages. With that being said, fault for an accident is not always so clear. Illinois is a modified comparative negligence legal jurisdiction—and it is a standard that could have a big impact on your case. Within this article, our Illinois personal injury lawyer explains the key things you should know about comparative negligence. 

What is Negligence?

As a starting point, it is crucial to have an understanding of what “negligence” means within the context of personal injury law. Negligence is the basis of most personal injury claims in Illinois, including motor vehicle collisions, premises liability claims, and even medical malpractice cases. 

Broadly defined, negligence is a legal concept that refers to the failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. The failure must result in harm or damage to another party to be considered actionable under the law. There are four elements: 

  1. Duty of care; 
  2. Breach of duty of care; 
  3. Causation between breach and harm; and
  4. Actual damages. 

What constitutes negligence? It always depends on the specific situation. A person or entity is negligent if they fail to live up to their duty of care. That means that they failed to act in a manner that a reasonably prudent party would have under similar circumstances. 

Illinois is a Modified Comparative Negligence State

Illinois is a modified comparative negligence jurisdiction (735 I.L.C.S. § 5/2-1116). The standard has a big impact on how damages are awarded by Illinois courts in personal injury cases where multiple parties share fault for the same accident. Understanding the comparative negligence standard is especially important if you are partially responsible for your own accident.  Under this system, an injured victim can recover damages only if they are found to be at fault for 50 percent of their own accident or less. Further, if a person is found partially at fault, their compensation will be reduced by the percentage of their fault. An injured victim who is 20 percent at fault for an accident can be held liable for 20 percent of their damages. 

Understanding Modified Comparative Negligence Through Three Examples

Comparative negligence can be a complicated concept. It is normal to be confused about exactly how the law applies to any given case. It is useful to consider some specific examples of how comparative negligence works in Illinois. Here are three examples of how comparative negligence applies in different contexts under Illinois law: 

  1. Pedestrian Collision (No Fault): In Illinois, imagine a scenario where a pedestrian is crossing the street within a crosswalk. They follow the relevant traffic signal—waiting their turn to cross. Unfortunately, a distracted driver hits them. Since the pedestrian is observing traffic signals and walking within designated areas, they are found to have no fault in the accident. Under Illinois’ modified comparative negligence rules, the driver is 100% at fault. The pedestrian is eligible for full compensation for their injuries. If the pedestrian sustained $50,000 in damages, he or she could pursue $50,000 in financial compensation. 
  2. Semi-Truck Crash (Some Fault): Next, consider a case in Cook County where a semi-truck crashes into a car. The driver of the car suffered $50,000 in total damages. However, an investigation revealed that while the semi-truck driver was primarily responsible due to fatigue, the motorist was speeding at the time of the crash. That driver is assigned 20 percent blame for the accident. Under Illinois law, they would bear 20 percent of the responsibility for their damages. Even though $50,000 in total losses were sustained by the driver, only $40,000 could be recovered through a personal injury claim. 
  3. Intersection Accident (Majority Fault): Finally, imagine another case in Chicago where a vehicle collides with another at an intersection. The driver suffered $50,000 in total damages. However, due to running a stop sign, they were found to be at fault for 75 percent of the accident. Under Illinois’ system, because this driver’s fault percentage is over 50 percent, they are barred from recovering any damages from the other driver. Even with $50,000 in damages, they would be eligible for $0 through a personal injury claim. 

Every Accident Requires a Comprehensive Investigation By a Lawyer

Every major accident in Illinois should be thoroughly investigated by an experienced personal injury attorney. A comprehensive investigation of an accident is especially important if you may be partially responsible for your own accident. You need access to all of the relevant evidence. Remember, every percentage point of fault matters under the Illinois modified comparative negligence system. Being held at fault for even a relatively small portion of your own accident in Illinois could potentially take thousands of dollars (or more) out of your settlement/verdict. 

Why Rely On the Illinois Personal Injury Attorneys at Kennedy Watkins

Comparative negligence cases are complicated. Even a seemingly small amount of fault being assigned to you could take thousands of dollars out of your settlement. Do not rely on any insurance company to look out for your rights or your interests. They want to pay out less in settlement negotiations. At Kennedy Watkins LLC, our team of Chicago attorneys have extensive experience handling cases involving comparative negligence issues. With a proven record of verdicts and settlements, you can trust our Illinois personal injury lawyers when it matters most. 

Get Help From Our Illinois Personal Injury Attorney Today

At Kennedy Watkins LLC, our Illinois personal injury attorneys are aggressive, experienced advocates for justice. If you have any specific questions or concerns about comparative negligence, we are here as a legal resource. Get in touch with us today to set up your free, no strings attached case review. With an office in Chicago, we fight for victims rights throughout Northern Illinois, including in Cook County, DuPage County, Will County, McHenry County, and Lake County.

Attorney Watkins
Attorney Watkins Attorney Kennedy



Attorney Kennedy