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What Does “Contributory Negligence” Mean in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Contributory negligence and comparative negligence are legal terms used to describe the assessment of liability in a personal injury lawsuit, such as one involving a motor vehicle accident. 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 and/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.

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 negligent in causing the accident.

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.

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.

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 Office, LLC 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.

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.

Categories: Auto Accidents