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Contributory Negligence in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Insurance Agent Inspecting assessed Damaged Car checking and signing on report insurance claim form process after accident collision.

Contributory negligence in motor vehicle accidents is a legal term used to describe the assessment of liability in a personal injury lawsuit. Contributory and comparative negligence standards apply when two parties are responsible for the auto accident in some way. The assessment of liability depends, in large part, on the jurisdiction of the motor vehicle accident or personal injury lawsuit. Most states follow the comparative negligence system, whereas only a few states continue to follow a contributory negligence system of liability.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence basically allocates fault between the parties involved in the motor vehicle accident, but the specifics of comparative negligence rules differ from state to state. Some states apply a “pure” comparative negligence regime, in which accident victims can recover some compensation for their injuries even if they were partially negligent in causing the accident.

Illinois Follows a Modified Comparative Negligence System

Other states, including Illinois, operate under the “modified” comparative negligence regime, whereby an accident victim’s recovery is limited if the victim’s fault exceeds a certain level. For instance, in Illinois, an auto accident victim can only recover damages if he or she is less than 50% at fault for the accident. Moreover, the amount of damages may be reduced in proportion to the degree to which the injured party was at fault. For example, if you were 30% at fault for the accident, you may still be able to collect damages, but the other driver’s insurance company may only pay 70% of your damages.

What Is Contributory Negligence?

Conversely, under the contributory negligence system – which very few states still use – a defendant may be able to avoid liability entirely if he or she can show that the accident’s victim was negligent and contributed to the accident in any way. This is because contributory negligence bars a victim from collecting damages at all if he or she carried any fault for an accident.

Why Is Establishing Liability Important in Car Accident Claims?

Car insurance is intended to cover any losses or damages after an accident. Establishing liability in a car accident claim helps to determine which party’s insurance is responsible for covering damages. If you, or your insurance company, are found to be at fault for an accident, insurance will need to cover the costs for medical treatment for you and the other victim. If another party is at fault, his or her insurance would cover those damages.

Assessing liability and the legal issues of comparative negligence and contributory negligence are incredibly complex and best handled by an experienced personal injury attorney. The Chicago personal injury lawyers at Ankin Law focus on representing the victims of all types of motor vehicle accidents, including auto accidents, trucking accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Accordingly, we are well-versed in the principles of contributory negligence and comparative negligence and can apply them to the facts of your motor vehicle accident.

What Damages Does Insurance Cover in an Auto Accident?

Insurance covers a variety of expenses after a crash. These damages include costs for initial and emergency medical care, long term treatment and rehabilitative costs, and medical equipment and prescription costs. In addition, if a victim faces lost wages, pain and suffering, and lost future earning capacity, these costs may be recoverable. In cases of egregious acts, punitive damages may also be pursuable through a personal injury claim.

Contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Chicago auto accident lawyers to learn more about comparative negligence and contributory negligence.

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