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How is comparative negligence applied in Illinois?

Most motor vehicle accidents involve some degree of negligence. Sometimes one driver is entirely at fault. In some cases, however, both drivers are partially at fault. In Illinois, liability for a car accident can be shared by the parties involved in the accident. This is known as comparative negligence.

How do courts in Illinois use comparative negligence to determine liability and damages? Under the state's comparative negligence law, injured parties will only receive compensation if their fault is less than 50 percent of the total fault. A party who is more than 50 percent at fault can recover no damages. If a party is less than 50 percent at fault, any compensation they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the jury finds an injured party was 20 percent at fault, then he or she can recover 80 percent of their total damages in compensation.

After an injury accident, the negligent driver's insurer will typically reach their own determination as to the parties' comparative negligence using police reports and any available eyewitness testimony. The company may or may not make an offer to the injured party based on their determination. The insurance company, of course, is not neutral and in many cases will seek to deny or minimize a legitimate claim.

What if an insurance company refuses to pay a claim? Injured parties can sue the negligent driver and take the case to trial. A jury will make the determination of liability and the insurance company for the negligent driver will be contractually obligated to pay any damages awarded, up to the liability limits of the policy.

Source: Insurance.Illinois.gov, "Comparative Negligence," January 2014

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