In the immediate aftermath of any type of accident, the question of fault surfaces. This is especially important in personal injury cases, which are only considered valid if the plaintiff can prove the defendant was at fault as stipulated by Illinois laws. According to Illinois laws, a person can only claim damages for damages if they are 50 percent or less responsible for the accident. In many cases the fault clearly rests with a specific party. However, there are also many cases where fault is less apparent. Regardless of whether fault is apparent or not, in order to win a personal injury case, fault must be proven.
The Determination of Liability
Determining who is at fault in a personal injury case often depends on the legal liability under the circumstances. Frequently those who may be considered liable in a situation have some kind of liability insurance. For instance, all motorists in Illinois are required to carry auto liability insurance because the use of roadways automatically requires them to operate their vehicles in a safe manner.
In instances where the parties involved cannot come to an agreement about liability, a personal injury lawsuit may need to be filed with a court where a jury can decide the issue. Once liability is established, fault can be determined.
The Use of Negligence to Prove Fault
Most personal injury claims come up when one of the parties involved acted in a negligent manner. For legal purposes, negligence is defined as failing to take reasonable care and consequently causing harm to another person. Proving negligence is one of the most common ways to establish fault in personal injury cases. To do this, a plaintiff must show that:
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff;
- The defendant breached their duty to the plaintiff through negligent actions;
- The breach in duty was the cause of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff; and
- The plaintiff incurred damages from the injuries.
An simple example of a personal injury claim where fault is relatively apparent is an accident where one driver was struck by another driver who was texting and not paying attention to the road. Both drivers had a legal duty to drive safely, but one driver breached that duty through the negligent act of texting, leading to the car crash that injured the other driver.
Other Ways to Prove Fault
Although most personal injury cases deal with negligence, it is possible to prove fault in several other ways, including:
- Showing the defendant inflicted the harm intentionally, as would be the case in assault and battery claims or other types of intentional tort cases.
- Demonstrating the case involves “strict liability”. This would be true for a dog bite case, as because Illinois dog bite laws are based on strict liability.
Evidence Used to Prove Fault
The type of evidence used to prove fault depends on the nature of the individual case. Some common pieces of evidence that might be used to prove negligence or fault in personal injury cases in Illinois include:
- Medical records;
- Police reports;
- Photographs of injuries and/or the accident scene; and
- Testimony from eyewitnesses or experts.
Since winning a personal injury case hinges on providing sufficient proof, it is important to begin documentation of the accident and injuries as soon as possible.