What Is Comparative Fault?

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Comparative fault is a legal principle that applies to certain injury claims. This principle governs when a plaintiff might be entitled to financial compensation despite sharing in the fault of an accident. Comparative fault rules are used in the vast majority of states, but there are different ways jurisdictions approach this principle. 

If you were injured in a car accident and share some of the blame, comparative fault rules could allow you to recover a portion of your damages. The damages available to you will depend on the extent of your fault. 

What Comparative Fault Rules Mean for Your Accident Case

Most states have adopted some form of comparative fault rules. These rules have in common that plaintiffs are not barred entirely from recovering compensation when they share in the fault of an accident. 

That said, comparative fault rules do not mean every injured party will recover some or all of their damages. A comparative fault approach generally reduces the amount of compensation available to a plaintiff who is partially to blame for the accident. 

Different approaches to comparative negligence exist, though. Every state has adopted its own approach, which can fall into a few different categories. Some jurisdictions have adopted a standard known as pure comparative fault, while others rely on modified comparative fault. There are subcategories of modified comparative fault, as well. 

Pure Comparative Fault Offers the Most Flexibility

Pure comparative fault is arguably the best option available to a plaintiff. Under this legal theory, there is virtually no limitation on when a plaintiff can pursue a personal injury lawsuit and recover some of their damages. 

Under pure comparative fault, you could recover compensation no matter how at fault you are. In other words, a plaintiff that is primarily at fault for an injury could still pursue compensation from the other at-fault party. Their recovery will be reduced by their degree of fault, however. 

A plaintiff pursuing a lawsuit under the pure comparative fault standard could find themselves the target of an injury lawsuit, though. If a plaintiff is 90 percent at fault for an accident, the other side could file their own legal action. The result could be that the plaintiff ultimately owes more than they recover. 

Modified Comparative Fault Rules Include Some Limitations

Modified comparative fault differs from pure comparative fault. A plaintiff is completely barred from any recovery in come circumstances under the former. Modified comparative fault features different standards, namely the 50 percent and the 51 percent rule. 

Under the 50 percent rule, a plaintiff cannot recover damages if their degree of fault is equal to or greater than that of the defendant’s. Under the 51 percent rule, a plaintiff could recover damages if their degree of fault is less than 51 percent. 

Comparative and Contributory Negligence Are Different

Comparative fault is not the only legal theory of negligence used in the United States. The vast majority of jurisdictions rely on some form of comparative fault rules. Five states and the District of Columbia use a legal structure known as contributory negligence. 

Contributory negligence was common in years past, but many states have moved away from the doctrine over time. Under contributory negligence, a plaintiff may not pursue a civil lawsuit if they are partially at fault for an accident. 

For example, an injured motorist one percent at fault for a car crash may not recover any damages from the other party under a contributory negligence system. 

What Are the Comparative Fault Rules in Illinois?

Illinois adopted a form of the modified comparative negligence standard under 735 ILCS 5/2-1116. Under this law, a plaintiff is only barred from recovery if their degree of fault is greater than 50 percent. They are entitled to partial recovery if their share of the blame is 50 percent or less. 

In other words, Illinois comparative fault rules follow the 51 percent approach. As long as a plaintiff is not primarily responsible for an accident, they could recover a monetary award. They could even do so with an Illinois personal injury lawyer

The amount of compensation the plaintiff recovers will diminish as their degree of fault increases. 

Discus Comparative Fault Rules with Your Personal Injury Attorney

Modified comparative fault rules can be difficult to apply in some cases. After all, there is no way to predict how a jury might determine the degree of fault you share in your accident. For that reason, you might benefit from hiring legal counsel. 

Call (313) 223-1700 for a free consultation with The Kryder Law Group, LLC to learn about how comparative fault rules might impact your case. Our team can inform you what damages you could collect in your case.

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