This is the next post in my series on the handling of Peoria, Illinois car accident cases which involve a commercial vehicle. My last article discussed dealing with insurance after a commercial vehicle accident. It is important to understand that such cases can take substantial time to settle and accepting a “quick” settlement offer can leave you without money that is needed for future care. An experienced attorney will offer honest advice as to when one should, and should not, settle. In this article I will be discussing how Illinois’ comparative fault laws apply to such matters. If you or a family member are in need of assistance then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
An Illinois accident victim cannot recover damages if they were at least fifty percent responsible for the accident
Illinois is a comparative fault state. This means that an accident victim can still recover damages even if they are found to have been partially responsible for the accident. Any damages which are awarded to the victim will be reduced by the extent to which they were at fault for the accident. If, however, it is found that the victim was at least fifty percent responsible for the accident then they will recover nothing. The determination of the amount of blame to assign to a party is made by the jury.
The foregoing concepts are best explained through example. Suppose Joe Driver is texting while at a four-way stop sign. He is not paying attention to the road and proceeds into the intersection. A delivery driver runs the stop sign and hits Joe. Had Joe been paying attention to the road he would have seen the vehicle coming. The jury decides that Joe is thirty-percent responsible for the accident and the delivery driver was seventy-percent responsible. The jury also finds that Joe suffered $100,000 in damages. Joe will receive $70,000 ($100k – 30%). While it must be remembered that how a jury will rule is going to depend on the facts of the case, this example does demonstrate how comparative fault can impact a victim.
Illinois’ joint and several liability laws will be important in cases involving a commercial vehicle accident
Illinois has adopted the doctrine of joint and several liability. This doctrine allows for an injury victim to collect the damages they have been awarded from a defendant, even if that defendant was not fully responsible for the wreck. This protects a victim against the possibility of being awarded a large judgment, only to find that the victim lacks the resources to pay the damages. Under Illinois law, if a defendant is twenty-five percent or more responsible for the accident then they will be jointly and severally liable for all of the victim’s damages.
Consider the following example. Dave is hit by a delivery driver. The jury finds that Dave is twenty-five percent responsible for the accident. The jury also finds that the driver’s employer is sixty-percent responsible for the wreck and a third-party management company bears the remaining fifteen-percent of the blame. Dave suffered $100,000 in damages. He is only eligible to recover $75,000 due to his share of liability for the wreck. Since the employer was more than twenty-five percent responsible for the accident, Dave can collect the entire $75,000 from them. Dave would only be able to collect $15,000 from the management company, since they were less than twenty-five percent responsible for the accident.
Issues involving both comparative fault and joint and several liability raise complicated issues of fact and law. It is vital that you retain a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in handling such matters. I am a Peoria car accident attorney who handles matters which involve commercial vehicles. If you or a family member are in need of assistance then contact us today. Our firm also serves clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.