How Does Personal Injury Law Work?

Many people injured due to someone else’s negligence wonder, “How does personal injury law work?” You can use personal injury law in Chicago, Illinois, to get the negligent party to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. However, you will need to prove four things: the party owed you a duty of care, the party failed to honor the duty of care, his or her negligence hurt you, and the injury cost you money.

How Does Personal Injury Law Work. how a personal injury lawsuit works

Personal injury law applies to many kinds of accidents, including car accidents, slips and falls, medical malpractice, and product liability. Comparative fault laws will apply if both parties in the accident are partly to blame. In Illinois, the claims process involves determining how much each person contributed to the accident or incident and adjusting the payout accordingly.

What Is Personal Injury Law?

Personal injury law is a set of rules for accidents, helping you get compensated if someone else’s negligence caused you harm. It is based on the premise that you were owed a standard duty of care. However, the negligent party did not uphold this duty, causing a breach of duty.

The negligent party’s actions must have hurt you. They should have also cost you money or losses. If you can prove all these things, you have valid grounds for a personal injury case against the individual or entity.

4 Elements of Negligence

Every personal injury case revolves around negligence – a legal framework to hold individuals or entities accountable for harm caused by their actions/omissions. In a negligence claim, you must prove four distinct elements. These crucial elements include a duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages, as discussed below:

Duty of Care

Negligence claims arise when the defendant owes the plaintiff a legal duty of care. This duty arises from a recognition that individuals must act with reasonable care in their interactions. Factors like the foreseeability of harm, the relationship between the parties, and the nature of the activity help determine if a duty of care exists.

Breach of Duty

The plaintiff must establish the defendant violated the duty of care. The plaintiff must also demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct did not match the standard of care expected under the circumstances. The standard of care is the conduct of a reasonable person in the same situation.


Even if the defendant breached his or her duty of care, the plaintiff must show that the breach caused the injuries. The plaintiff should establish a direct and demonstrable link between the defendant’s conduct and the harm. It’s also important to prove that the plaintiff would not have suffered the injury if there was no breach of duty.


The plaintiff must demonstrate he or she suffered quantifiable harm due to the defendant’s negligence. Damages include economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages constitute medical bills, lost earnings, and property damage, while non-economic damages are subjective, non-financial losses like pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and diminished quality of life.

Types of Personal Injury Claims in Illinois

You may have a legal basis for a personal injury claim if you get hurt in Chicago, Illinois, because of someone else’s negligence. You usually have only two years to file a claim. Car crashes, slips and falls, medical mistakes, and defective products can lead to injuries that form the basis of a personal injury claim as discussed below:

Car Accidents

Car accidents can leave you hurt and wondering if someone owes you compensation. That is where personal injury claims come into play.

When investigating a personal injury claim related to a car accident, the elements of negligence are considered. Both drivers have a duty to drive safely, without distractions or recklessness. So, when filing a personal injury claim, you must show that someone violated that duty.

Your loss or injuries, such as whiplash, broken bones, or ruined bumper, have to be directly linked to the crash. You must also demonstrate to insurance companies and the court how your losses impacted you. Meeting these requirements will help you know when to hire a personal injury lawyer.

Slip and Falls

A slip and fall that occurs at a facility or surface owned or maintained by someone else may qualify for a personal injury claim. You have to show the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard. Proving the owner was not careful enough despite having a duty to keep the place safe is also important.

Your slip and fall has to be the main reason you got hurt. You must also demonstrate the losses suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Medical Malpractice

You might be a victim of medical malpractice if a doctor is responsible for an injury or loss you suffered. The doctor’s duty of care is to give you the right level of medical treatment.

So, if the doctor gave you the wrong medicine, did not listen to your concerns, or did something else he or she should not have done, you may hold that doctor accountable through a medical malpractice lawsuit. In the lawsuit, you should demonstrate that because of that breach of duty of care, your condition worsened or treatment went wrong.

In Illinois, you can sue for medical malpractice if you can prove the doctor did not follow the accepted level of care. You must also demonstrate that the doctor’s negligence directly caused your injuries and resulting losses.

Product Liability

The product liability principle requires manufacturers to ensure their products are safe. If a faulty product hurts you, the manufacturer can be held liable. The manufacturer may be accountable for the defective item in various ways.

  • The manufacturer may have messed up at the design stage of the product
  • The manufacturer could have made a mistake while creating the product
  • The manufacturer may not have given you clear instructions on how to avoid getting injured when using the product

To pursue your case, you need to show that the item had a defect. It’s also important to show that the defect hurt you. The same applies to demonstrating that the company knew or should have known the product was dangerous.

If a product has hurt you, stop using it to prevent further losses. Keep the product and any receipts or packaging as evidence. A personal injury lawyer can review your case and determine if you have valid grounds for a product liability case. If so, the lawyer can handle the claim on your behalf, allowing you to focus on recovery.

What Is the Comparative Fault Law in Illinois?

The Illinois uses a modified comparative fault system. This system applies to personal injury cases in which the involved parties share a degree of responsibility for an accident.

The law decides how much blame each person holds using percentages. This way, comparative fault helps ensure everyone takes responsibility for their part in an accident. The payout the victim gets will reflect his or her percentage of fault.

The more you are to blame, the less compensation you might get. If you are 50% or more to blame, you will not receive any compensation. Your lawyer can compile strong evidence and arguments to show that the other party was fully liable for your injuries.

What Is the Impact of Comparative Fault on Personal Injury Claims in Illinois?

The other party might counter your claim by suggesting that you were at fault for the accident. In such a case, the judge (in a bench trial) or jury (in a jury trial) decides how much blame each of you gets.

Expect your compensation to be reduced based on your percentage of fault. Knowing about comparative fault helps you understand your situation better and manage your expectations.

Your lawyer and the other party’s lawyer may try to figure out the percentage of fault out of court. This will require great negotiation skills from your lawyer. If you settle your injury case, a trial will not be necessary. In fact, personal injury cases rarely go to trial.

The court will step in if you and the other person can’t agree on the percentage of fault. The court will determine if you qualify for compensation based on your degree of fault and, if so, how much you should get. 

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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