Can more than one person be held liable for an auto accident?

A recent case handled by our office addressed the issue of can more than one person be held liable for an auto accident. If you were involved in an accident where multiple parties were involved, feel free to contact Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.

Can more than one person be held liable for an auto accident?

The answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? If two parties (defendants) were negligent and caused your injury, they should be held responsible or “liable” for your damages. This is called “Joint and Several Liability.”

  • If the defendants are “jointly liable”, then each defendant could be liable to pay up to and including, ALL OF YOUR DAMAGES. This might be necessary if for example, the other defendant was uninsured or otherwise unable to pay
  • If the parties are “severally liable”, that means that they are only responsible for their fair share of the damages

Why would one defendant be held responsible for ALL the damages?

It is a matter of public policy. If someone is the victim of an auto accident that they did not cause, it is simply fairer to hold the defendants responsible for all the damages, than it is to put the burden on the victim.

What if the defendants were not equally liable?

What if the defendants were not equally liable for the accident? In this situation, Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz and counsel/insurance for all the defendants will apportion liability among the parties. Or, if the case goes to trial, then apportionment would be left to a judge or jury.

The law in Illinois

Some states follow the theory of “pure joint and several liability.” This means that the plaintiff/victim can only recover the specific amount of damages that a defendant is responsible for. So, for example, if your case is worth $100,000 and each defendant is ½ at fault, you can only recover a maximum of $50k from each defendant – NOT $100,000 from one defendant and zero from the other.

Illinois however follows the concept of “modified joint and several liability.” In Illinois, if a defendant is more than twenty-five percent responsible for an accident, then he/she is responsible for up to 100 percent of the victim’s damages (if the other defendant is uninsured, underinsured, or, otherwise unable to pay).

If a defendant is less than 25 percent responsible for an accident, then he/she is responsible for 100 percent of the economic damages (medical bills and lost wages) but only “severally liable” (responsible for their fair share) for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.

It’s very confusing and if you are faced with this situation, please call Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz for a free consultation at 312-848-9783.

It’s easier to understand in a couple of examples:

Scenario 1

Plaintiff A:           0 % liable

$100,000 in medical bills

$100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant A:     50% liable

$250,000 in insurance

Defendant B:     50% liable

Zero/no insurance

Result:

Defendant A:     Is liable for ALL damages

Liable for 100 percent of ($100,000) medical bills

Liable for $100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant B:     Liable but has no assets to recover against

Scenario 2

Plaintiff A:           0 % liable

$100,000 in medical bills

$100,000 in pain and suffering

Defendant A:     80% liable

$25,000 in insurance

Defendant B:     20% liable

$250,000 in insurance

Result:                  Defendant A is primarily responsible for the accident but has limited insurance.

As such, Defendant B will have to pay practically all of the medical bills. But, since Defendant B is less than 25 percent responsible for the accident, he only had to pay his several share of the pain and suffering – 20 percent, or $20,000.

It is important to note that in Illinois, if the Plaintiff was more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, she could not have recovered at all for her injuries and damages.

If you were injured through someone else’s negligence and are faced with the question of whether more than one person be held liable for an auto accident, contact Glenview lawyer Barry Zlotowicz at 312-848-9783 for a free consultation.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

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