Is Illinois a No-Fault Car Accident State?
In the U.S., different states follow different systems when it comes to motor vehicle accident claims. Specifically, states can either follow a no-fault or a fault-based system.
In no-fault systems, injured victims do not need to prove that anyone else was at fault for the accident that caused their injuries; instead, they can collect compensation for their damages regardless of fault by filing claims with their own auto insurance providers. In states that follow fault-based systems, meanwhile, accident victims must bring claim against at-fault drivers and/or their insurance providers. This means victims must prove that someone else was to blame for the accident that caused their injuries and related damages.
Illinois is NOT a no-fault state. It follows a fault-based system, which means you will have to prove that someone else—whether another driver or a third party—was at fault for your accident to recover compensation. While you may be able to recover some compensation through your own insurance provider, depending on the type of policy/coverage you have, you will most often need to seek compensation by filing a personal injury claim with the other party’s insurance company.
What Is Comparative Negligence?
In fault states, negligence is a key factor in nearly all car accident claims. This is because negligence (or wrongful conduct) is tied to fault and liability. Simply put, when another motorist negligently causes an accident, they can be held liable for the victims’ resulting damages.
But what happens when multiple parties are negligent?
Illinois law recognizes that many car accidents involve shared fault. In other words, it is common for two or more parties to be at least partly to blame for a single accident. For example, you may have been hit by a distracted driver, but you were also speeding five miles over the posted speed limit at the time. When more than one person is at fault for an accident, how does the insurance company and/or the court decide who is liable for damages?
This is where comparative negligence comes in.
There are two types of comparative negligence:
- Pure Comparative Negligence: Injured parties can pursue compensation after an accident as long as another party is at least 1% at fault.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: Injured parties can pursue compensation if they share some of the blame, but their degree of fault does not exceed the applicable limit.
Illinois follows a rule of modified comparative negligence with 49% limit. This means that you can file a claim for damages after an accident for which you shared some of the blame ONLY if you are less than 50% at fault. If the insurance company or court finds that you are 50% or more to blame, you cannot file a car accident claim with the other driver’s insurance company.
In any case, if you are partly at fault for an accident, you will not be able to recover the full amount you would otherwise have received if you were not to blame whatsoever. Under the state’s comparative negligence rule, your recovery is reduced by your at-fault percentage. So, if the insurance company/court finds you 25% at fault, you can only recover up to 75% of the total amount.
How to Determine Fault in a Car Accident Case
In most cases, law enforcement officers and insurance adjusters weigh various pieces of evidence to determine who was at fault for an accident. Sometimes, concrete evidence of negligence—such as cell phone records proving a person was texting at the time of an accident—are available. But in many cases, the issue of fault comes down to each party’s account of the accident, as well as the testimony of witnesses, medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, and other experts.
All too often, insurance companies do whatever they can to dispute their policyholders’ liability. The insurance company may try to argue that you were at fault for an accident when you really were not to blame, or they may assert that you share more than 50% of the fault when, really, you were only partly to blame. In any case, it is important that you contact an attorney right away who can protect your rights.
At McHargue & Jones, LLC, we conduct independent investigations and work with a team of professionals to determine exactly how an accident occurred and, most importantly, who was at fault. Our Chicago car accident lawyers can help you understand your legal options and are ready to handle every detail of your case while you focus on the important task of healing and moving forward with your life.
Learn more by calling us at (312) 487-2461 or contacting us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.