Personal injury lawsuits serve an important purpose. When one individual does something wrong, and that action hurts someone else, the victim is able to seek compensation for these costs they otherwise would not have incurred.
But what happens in a situation where both drivers involved in a crash were partially at fault? Can you still be awarded damages via a personal injury claim?
The 51 percent rule
Illinois is one of the many states with a law known as modified comparative negligence that applies to personal injury lawsuits. Essentially, this means that if you were partially to blame for the accident, any damages you might be rewarded would be reduced proportionally.
For example, let’s say you missed a stop sign. A driver staring at their cellphone, coming from the left, didn’t see you and slammed into your car. Your injuries required surgery, so you file a personal injury claim and are ultimately awarded $10,000 in damages.
If you are found to have been 40% at fault for the crash, that $10,000 will be reduced by 40% (so down to $6,000). That is how comparative negligence laws work.
However, there is an important restriction. If a driver was more than 50% at fault (meaning 51% or higher), they cannot collect any damages. The law specifically prohibits it. In the example above, if it was determined you were 65% responsible for the crash, then you would be ineligible to be awarded any damages.
Ensuring the truth is heard
Fault is a hotly disputed aspect of any personal injury claim. If you’re involved in such a case, it is important to keep this in mind while remaining aware of the 51% bar. The defense could pull out all the stops in an effort to show you were 51% at fault. If successful, it could undermine the entirety of your claim.
It’s vital your plan your response in a way that protects the facts of the accident. By ensuring your true level of responsibility is not skewed by the other side, you give yourself the best chance to obtain rightful damages.