When a person is injured due to the actions of another party in Illinois, they may be entitled to significant financial compensation.
To collect compensation following an injury, it is usually necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. Most personal injury lawsuits are based on a theory of negligence. Therefore, for a plaintiff to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit, it is usually necessary to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
As discussed below, proving negligence requires an injured plaintiff to demonstrate the existence of four distinct elements. Damages available to an injured plaintiff in a negligence action include compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, medical bills, continuing medical costs, damage to property, and more. In this article, we discuss negligence in Illinois.
What Is Negligence in Illinois?
In common parlance, the term “negligence” means reckless or inattentive conduct. However, in a legal context, the term has a very precise meaning. To prove negligence in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff and their personal injury lawyer must prove the existence of four distinct elements.
What Are the Elements of Negligence?
A plaintiff must prove the following elements to succeed in a negligence action in the state of Illinois:
Duty of Care: The first thing that a plaintiff in a personal injury case must prove is that the defendant owed them a duty of care. “Duty of care” is a legal term meaning that a person has a legal obligation to behave in a certain way toward someone else. For example, the owner of a business has a duty to keep the premises safe for customers. In addition, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and obey the law while on the road.
Breach: Next, it is necessary to provide evidence that the defendant breached their duty to the plaintiff. You do this by comparing the defendant’s actions to those of a reasonable person under similar circumstances.
Causation: After duty and breach have been established, the plaintiff in a personal injury case must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. Illinois courts recognize two kinds of causation. The first is cause-in-fact. Sometimes called “but-for” causation, this type of causation examines whether, but for the defendant’s actions, the injury to the plaintiff would have occurred. The second type of causation—proximate cause—examines whether an accident is related closely enough to an injury to consider it the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Damages: Finally, a plaintiff in a personal injury case must demonstrate to the court that they suffered some type of loss or injury based on the defendant’s behavior. So, if a defendant breaches a duty and causes an accident, the plaintiff cannot recover unless they suffered some type of economic or psychological harm because of the accident.
Action and Inaction Can Constitute Negligence
When examining negligence in a personal injury case in Illinois, it is important to recognize that negligence can be the result of action or inaction. In other words, a finding of negligence isn’t limited solely to situations involving a party’s actions.
For example, if a store owner knows of a spill on the floor but fails to clean it up, the store owner’s failure to act – i.e., their inaction – could result in premises liability if a customer were to slip and fall due to the spill.
Modified Comparative Negligence in Illinois
Finally, an important point regarding negligence in Illinois is the state’s use of the modified comparative negligence system. The state’s statute, called contributory fault or modified comparative fault, only permits an injury victim to collect damages if they are not more responsible for the injury than the defendant. In other words, if a plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for their injury, they are barred from recovering in court.
However, if a plaintiff is 50 percent responsible for their injury or less, their damages are reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20 percent at fault for an accident that resulted in damages totaling $200,000, their compensation would be reduced by 20 percent, resulting in total damages of $160,000.
Contact a Naperville Personal Injury Lawyer for Help Proving the Elements of Your Negligence Claim
If you’ve suffered an injury in Illinois, you need the help of an experienced lawyer to help you prove the elements of negligence. A Naperville personal injury attorney will aggressively pursue financial compensation on your behalf and strive to hold the wrongdoer responsible for your injuries. Contact our law firm today for a free consultation at (630) 428-4040.