In Illinois, comparative negligence is a phrase often used by insurance companies to dispute or diminish the amount of an auto accident victim’s damages. My name is Barry Zlotowicz, my Glenview law firm deals with allegations of comparative fault regularly. If an insurance company accuses you of being partially at fault for an accident, contact us at 847-305-4105.
What is comparative negligence?
In Illinois comparative negligence basically means that the victim of an accident can recover if they are not more than 50% at fault for the accident.
Many states follow the concept of comparative negligence or comparative fault. Not all states do however. California for example follows the concept of “pure comparative negligence.” This means that even if you are 90% at fault for the accident, you can still recover 10% of your damages from the defendant.
This is huge in that if you suffer catastrophic damages in an accident, that 10% recovery could be a large amount. Large enough at least that a personal injury lawyer would agree to represent you.
Other states such as North Carolina, follow the concept of “contributory negligence.” This is a draconian law that states that if the victim in an auto or other accident is 1% or more at fault for the accident, that they are barred from recovery.
A couple of tips
- Never admit fault for an accident at the scene of the accident.
- If the other party admits fault for an accident, document it immediately. Just don’t secretly record them making the admission or you will have committed a crime.
- Do not give a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance adjuster before you consult with an attorney. Statements made in those conversations can be used against you.
How does comparative negligence work?
Generally speaking, you do not want to accept any comparative negligence on your part. If you do, this will diminish the value of your claim. It can thus affect how much you will recover for your property damage, your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering.
How does it work?
If you get in an auto accident and you accept 20% of being at fault for the accident, you will be entitled to 80% of your damages from the other party. So, if your car costs $10,000 to repair, you will receive $8,000 from the other side and you will have to come up with the extra $2,000.
Same for your medical bills, pain and suffering. If your case is worth $100,000 and you are 20% at fault for the accident, your maximum recovery will be $80,000.
When should you accept some fault for an accident?
In very few circumstances. However, there is one situation where you can accept some limited fault for an accident.
I have had more than a couple auto or motorcycle accident cases where the defendant’s insurance adjuster alleged that my clients were comparatively negligent and would not budge from their stance. So what do you do?
In a few of those cases we accepted limited negligence on the part of our client. Note: the client him or her self did not admit to fault on the record. We simply accepted part of the fault on their behalf.
Why did we do this? If we didn’t accept partial responsibility for the accident, we would have had to immediately file a lawsuit against the defendants. That would begin an 18 to 24 month process of costly litigation.
Conversely, by accepting fault, we were able to resolve our clients’ property damage claims immediately and move forward toward resolution. Even though their claims had been minimally diminished.
Most importantly however, we accepted being at fault only in cases where our client’s injuries were so significant that despite some comparative negligence, we knew well in advance that we would recover the entire insurance policy from the defendant.
What do I mean?
Take for example one motorcycle accident case I worked on a while back. The victim was T-boned while riding his motorcycle through an intersection. The car turned left in front of him and thus the majority at fault. But the motorcyclist had slightly caught speed at the time of the accident.
The insurance adjuster alleged comparative negligence. The defendant had a $100,000 auto insurance policy. However, our client’s injuries were worth much more than that. As such, we accepted partial comparative negligence to move on with his case while knowing that we were going to recover the entire $100,000 regardless how much fault we accepted.
If you were involved in an auto accident and an insurance adjuster is alleging Illinois comparative negligence, reach out to our Glenview law firm for a free consultation at 847-305-4105.