How an Accident Victim’s Negligence Reduces a Damages Award

Did you know that, if you are involved in an accident in Illinois, your own negligence might reduce the damages to which you are entitled?

There are two primary types of negligence rules that govern how a victim’s negligence impacts a damages claim.

The first is comparative negligence. In a comparative negligence model, the victim may be completely barred from recovering damages if the victim was at least partially responsible for the incident. For example, consider an area that has mandatory helmet laws for bicyclists. A driver veers off of the road and into a bicycle path, causing serious injuries to a cyclist. However, the cyclist was not wearing a helmet, as the law required. The driver may be able to use the lack of helmet against the cyclist.

In other states, like Illinois, a contributory negligence model is used. With contributory negligence, the victim’s damages award is reduced by an amount that is proportionate to the victim’s negligence. For example, if the victim is found to be 30 percent responsible for the accident, the victim’s damages award will be reduced by 30 percent.

Illinois actually follows a modified version of the contributory negligence model. If the victim is found to be more than 50 percent responsible for an accident, the victim’s recovery will be completely barred.

In all motor vehicle accident cases, there are three primary elements:

  • The at-fault party owed the victim a duty;
  • The at-fault party breached this duty by a negligent act or omission; and
  • Due to this breach, the victim was injured.

To prevail in a motor vehicle accident claim, the victim must prove all three elements with objective evidence. If one of the elements cannot be proven, the claim will fail and the victim will be solely responsible for the financial harms that have occurred as a result of the accident.

The negligence element is often the most contested part of a claim. Proving what happened in an accident is not always black and white, especially when the at-fault party tries to shift blame to the accident victim.

If the victim prevails, the victim may be entitled to a variety of damages, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • The cost of future medical care
  • The cost of remodeling a home (adding wheelchair ramps, for example)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium

Other damages may also be available, depending on the facts and circumstances of the claim. Some cases may be worth only a few thousand dollars, whereas others may be worth several million dollars.

An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure an accident victim’s legal rights are protected throughout a case. Personal injury attorneys submit as much evidence as possible to support victims’ claims and maximize their recovery.

If you have been injured, contact Stein & Shulman, LLC

Chicago firm Stein & Shulman, LLC has an excellent reputation in personal injury. To schedule your free consultation, call 312.422.0500 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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