If you want to win compensation after getting hurt in an accident, you have to prove someone else was at fault. You can base your claim on several legal reasons. But the most common reason is negligence. Our Illinois personal injury lawyers will help you gather and use evidence to prove the other party’s negligence.
Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. is here to fight for you to win the maximum settlement or jury award possible. We have a strong track record of success after car accidents, other auto accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect and abuse, product liability, premises liability, and other types of claims. To learn more about proving negligence in your personal injury case, call us at (312) 236-2900 or use our online form to request your free, confidential consultation.
Negligence is when someone doesn’t behave as reasonably and carefully as they should. Most people have a duty of ordinary care. This is a legal way of saying that everyone is supposed to act like a reasonably prudent person, given the situation. What’s reasonable depends on the circumstances. For example, what a reasonable driver does on a clear dry day differs from how a reasonable driver behaves when it’s raining at night. But courts do consider this an objective standard, not subjective. When a person behaves in a way that’s careless, like speeding during a nighttime thunderstorm, and causes someone else harm, this is negligence.
When you claim someone else was negligent and should pay for your injuries, you have to prove four distinct elements. The burden of proof rests on your shoulders. If you take your case to trial, you have to give the jury enough evidence to establish the other party is liable by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard of proof means it’s more likely than not the defendant is responsible. It’s a lower standard than proving someone’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court.
You have to show the other person owed you a duty of care. A person’s duty of care toward you can differ depending on the situation. They might have the duty of ordinary care. Courts apply this standard to most ordinary people, like drivers. But if the other party is a professional, like a doctor or dentist, then they have a professional standard of care. Other types of people or businesses, like property owners or manufacturers, might have different duties of care toward you. It’s important to talk with a lawyer about whether someone else had a standard of behavior to maintain, and if so, what that standard was.
Once you prove someone was supposed to behave a certain way, you then have to prove they didn’t. You have to present the insurer or court with evidence that the defendant’s behavior differed from what would have been reasonable. In some cases, this means the party did something careless or unreasonable. Or, it might mean the person or business failed to do something they should have.
It isn’t enough to show someone breached their duty of care. You have to connect that misbehavior with your injuries. There are two types of causation: Cause in fact and proximate cause. You have to prove both. Cause in fact means you wouldn’t have been injured but for the defendant’s actions. If they’d been reasonable, you’d be fine. Proximate cause means your injury is sufficiently related to the negligence. For your injury to be sufficiently related to the negligent conduct, it had to have been foreseeable. In other words, a reasonable person could’ve predicted you’d be hurt because of the defendant acting that way.
You might be able to prove duty, breach of duty, and causation. But you still can’t win compensation unless you prove you were hurt. You have to show you sustained physical, emotional, and financial injuries, which are known as damages.
When you can prove someone’s carelessness caused you harm, it’s called ordinary negligence. But, in your case, the other person’s behavior might have been worse than that. When someone’s actions are intentional, malicious, reckless, or show a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of people and property, then their behavior is gross negligence.
The distinction between ordinary and gross negligence is important because of punitive damages. When you prove ordinary negligence, you can only win compensatory damages, which is money meant to compensate you for your injuries. But if we can prove gross negligence, then we can ask the court to give you punitive damages. Instead of compensating you, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant.
It isn’t always possible or practical to prove a person or business negligent with direct evidence. For example, no one might have been around to see how a specific person behaved and caused a dangerous incident. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a strong legal claim. We might rely on the legal theory of res ipsa loquitur, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” This is also known as implied negligence. We can use circumstantial evidence to show you wouldn’t have been hurt unless someone else was negligent. To win on this basis, we also have to prove the defendant was in control of the situation, and there are no other plausible explanations for how you got hurt.
Another way someone can be negligent is by violating a statute. For us to rely on negligence per se, the statute has to be one that was enacted for people’s health and safety. It can be a state law or local ordinance, but it has to provide a punishment for violating it. When we use this theory of liability, we aren’t claiming the other person was negligent. Instead, we prove they violated a statute and caused the type of harm the law or ordinance meant to prevent.
It’s important to know when you’re fighting for compensation that you don’t have to prove the other party was 100% negligent. It’s possible for you or a third person to be involved and to be partly at fault. You might have been careless too, which is known as contributory fault.
Whether or not you can win compensation when the defendant isn’t 100% at fault depends on Illinois modified comparative negligence rule. When the defendant raises the issue that you or a third person might also have been responsible, the insurer or court assigns each party a percentage of fault. You still get compensation if you were less than 50% at fault, though your compensation is reduced by your amount of responsibility. If you were 25% at fault, then your compensation is reduced by 25%. But if the insurer or jury believes you were 51% or more responsible, then the law bars you from receiving a settlement or jury award.
Illinois has several laws that apply to torts, like personal injury cases based on negligence. Out attorneys at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. know these laws forward and backward, so you don’t have to. You don’t need to learn the law while you’re recovering from unexpected injuries. Instead, you can partner with us. We’ll guide you through the insurance claim process. When it’s necessary, we’ll represent you in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident that was someone else’s fault, please don’t wait to reach out. You can send us your information through our online form or call (312) 236-2900. We offer free consultations, and there are no fees unless we win.