Justice scale in courtroomThis is the next post in a series of articles discussing issues that commonly arise in wrongful death cases in Peoria, Illinois. My previous post focused on the importance of identifying all potential defendants in wrongful death matters. Failing to do so may preclude the victim’s survivors from recovering the full amount of damages to which they may be entitled. An experienced attorney can assist with investigating the accident and help determine which parties may be liable. In this article, I will discuss another important issue in wrongful death cases: how Illinois’ comparative fault laws may impact such matters. If you have lost a loved one in an accident and need assistance, contact my office to speak with a lawyer.

Many people hesitate to take legal action after an accident if they believe the victim was partially responsible for the event. However, Illinois, like many states, allows accident victims to recover damages from the responsible parties even if the victim was partially at fault. Under our state’s comparative fault provision, so long as the victim was fifty percent or less responsible, they are entitled to receive compensation. Their damages will be reduced by the percentage equal to the victim’s responsibility. For example, if an injured party would have been entitled to $100,000 in damages, but is found to have been 20% at fault for an accident, then their compensation would be reduced to $80,000 ($100,000 minus 20%). This concept also applies to survivor actions when a loved one is killed in an accident.

In wrongful death cases, like other personal injury matters, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant caused the incident in order to recover compensation. Particularly in complex cases involving commercial defendants and significant potential damages, liability is often hotly contested. This is especially true when the defendant believes it can prove the victim was partially at fault, therefore reducing or eliminating the defendant’s financial repercussions under comparative fault laws. It is not uncommon for both the plaintiff and the defendants to engage multiple expert witnesses in an attempt to establish who was responsible for the accident. Consider the following example. A motorcyclist is killed when his bike was hit by a delivery van. During the wrongful death trial, the company’s lawyer argues that the rider’s erratic driving made him more responsible for the accident than the driver of the van. The plaintiff’s attorney argues that the van driver was speeding and distracted because he was on his cell phone when the crash occurred. Both sides engage accident reconstructionists and medical experts to present evidence in support of their respective arguments. The ultimate outcome will be determined by a jury.

If you have lost a family member in an accident, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to represent your interests. Doing so can ensure that evidence that may be needed to prove liability is properly preserved. If you need assistance with a wrongful death matter, contact my office to speak with a Peoria lawyer. Our firm also serves clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.