WHAT IS CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE?

Many times, the person that has caused an accident claims that you also drove negligently and that you were actually the cause of the accident, or that your driving contributed to cause the accident resulting in your injury. This claim is known as “contributory negligence”. If you were somehow negligent in driving your vehicle and contributed to cause the accident, this does NOT bar or prevent you from recovering fair compensation for your injuries and damages.

Understand, we will fight hard to show that the crash was not your fault.

But in some cases, the cause of the crash is a combination of fault by two or more persons.

For example, imagine a situation where one driver is in an intersection, waiting to turn left. The traffic light turns yellow and the driver starts his left turn. However, a car that was coming in the opposite direction continues straight through the intersection while the traffic light is yellow. There is a crash. In a case like this, it could be found that the driver who caused the crash was BOTH the left-turning driver because he did not keep a proper lookout for the other car still coming through the intersection, AND the driver who continued straight through the intersection without stopping on a yellow light.

In that fact situation, both parties could have contributed to cause the crash. The question then becomes which driver is more responsible? If there is a trial, a jury would determine the amount of fault of each driver by assigning a percentage of fault to each. For example, a jury could find that the left-turning driver was 75% at fault for not keeping a proper lookout for traffic; but because the driver going straight through did not reduce speed or stop, that driver is 25% at fault.

So in this case, what compensation is each driver entitled to if they were both injured? The law states that if a person is found to be greater than 50% responsible in causing the accident in which he is injured, he cannot recover compensation for his injuries. He is barred from recovery. However, if a person is found to be partially responsible in causing a crash in which he is involved, and his responsibility is determined to be 50 % or less for the crash, his recovery is NOT barred. However, his compensation is reduced by the percentage of the fault attributed to him. So in the example above, if the fair compensation for the driver of the driver going straight through the intersection was $100,000, his award would then be reduced by 27% for his share of the fault, and so he would recover $75,000. If this jury had found him to be 50% at fault, he would recover $50,000. If the jury found he was 60% at fault, he would recover nothing.

The point is that we will fight hard to establish that our client was not at fault in causing the crash; but sometimes, our client does have some fault. But even if an injured person has some fault for a crash, the injured person can still receive compensation and damages.

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James A. Payonk, Jr.

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Orland Park, Illinois 60467

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