Establishing Liability in an Accident

Accidents can be complicated events, and often even though it seems obvious to you that someone else caused an accident, the other person usually denies any responsibility. The witness testimony and evidence may be contradictory and leave the story of what happened open to interpretation. If you’ve been hurt and want to make a claim for compensation, you’ll have to establish that someone else is liable for your injuries and damages before you’ll get paid.

Even when the facts of an accident are relatively simple, liability can be a complex legal idea. Your case will have to demonstrate particular points to meet the legal standard for liability if you want compensation. That’s where a skilled personal injury lawyer can help. An attorney with experience establishing liability in personal injury cases will know what you need to prove, what evidence will need to be gathered to support your claim, and how a judge or jury is likely to view the facts of your case. Having representation from a qualified attorney may be critical to getting your medical expenses and other damages covered.

Establishing Liability In Accidents

What is Liability?

Liability simply put means being legally responsible for something. In a personal injury case, the person who is liable is the one who bears the responsibility for making victims of the accident whole. If you were in a car accident caused by another driver, then the other driver would be the one who bears liability. In Illinois, when you’re the victim of an accident and suffer a personal injury, the law allows you to make a claim for compensation from the person who bears liability. Compensation can include payment of your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life.

What You Have to Prove

To establish that another person is liable for your injuries and damages, there are certain things you have to prove. Basically, it boils down to:

  • You suffered some harm
  • Your harm was caused by the actions of another person
  • The other person’s actions were unreasonable (or in other words negligent)
  • The harm you suffered is of a type that can be compensated

You’ll need to offer up evidence that demonstrates those points. Your harm can be demonstrated by providing copies of medical bills, repair estimates, and testimony from doctors, your family, or anyone else with insight into how the accident has affected your life. Once you’ve proved that you suffered harm, then you have to link that to the accident, and prove that the other person was at fault for the accident.

Because you’re the one making the claim, you have what is known as the burden of proof. In personal injury lawsuits, your burden is to prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, which just means that it was more likely than not that the other person caused your injuries or damages.

Comparative Negligence

Negligence isn’t always clear-cut in an accident. Sometimes many people acted in a way that contributed to the cause of the accident, including the people who got hurt. However, even if you bear some of the fault for your accident, Illinois law still allows you recover compensation as long as you’re not found to bear more than 50 percent of the fault for what happened.

Under the principal called comparative negligence, if you do bear some of the fault, the amount of compensation you can receive is reduced by your percentage of fault. So if a jury determines that you’re responsible for 20 percent of the fault because of your own negligence, and the jury says your injuries were worth $100,000, you’d actually get $80,000 because your claim would be reduced by 20 percent, or $20,000.