How does comparative negligence apply to Illinois car accidents?

Illinois uses a modified comparative negligence model, which means an injured party’s award could be reduced if he or she is to blame for a car wreck.

In September 2015, the daughter of actor Paul Walker filed a lawsuit against Porsche for an accident that killed her father in 2013. According to Fox59, the wrongful death claim alleges that the car had design flaws which caused the wreck. However, Porsche states that Walker's accident was the result of his comparative fault, stating that the vehicle had been altered and that Walker knew the risks of his behavior.

The case illustrates how comparative negligence can come into play in car accidents in Illinois and across the country. Knowing the state's negligence laws gives motorists an idea of what to expect in terms of compensation following an accident.

Illinois's negligence laws

According to state law, Illinois uses a modified comparative negligence model that requires an injured party to be 50% or less to blame for an incident in order to recover damages. Someone who is found to be more than 50% at fault for an accident is barred from recovering compensation.

Further, any award may be reduced proportionate to the plaintiff's responsibility for the incident. For example, if a court (judge or jury) determines that the plaintiff was 20% at fault for the car accident, the plaintiff would receive 20% less than the total award.

Determining negligence

The Illinois Department of Insurance reports that the insurance provider will investigate to determine who is to blame for the incident. That investigation may include the following:

  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Reviewing a police report
  • Speaking to both drivers

After determining how much both drivers are to blame for the accident, the provider may make an offer for damages. If the provider believes that the insured party was less than 50% at fault for the car accident, the insurance provider may refused to offer any compensation.

Disputing negligence

If an injured party disagrees with the insurance company's findings, he or she may try to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to court. The injured party may also file a complaint with the state Department of Insurance, though only the courts may make a legal determination regarding negligence.

Insurance companies may try to shortchange victims of car accidents regarding the damages they are owed. Further, a simple insurance claim will not address noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. People wishing to recover maximum compensation may need to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused the accident.

Anyone with questions about this matter should consult with an attorney.