In a Chicago personal injury case, establishing liability is the first step to receiving compensation for your injuries. To establish fault, you must first prove that the person who caused your injuries acted recklessly or negligently. What this means is that the liable party failed to adhere to the level of care that someone in the same or similar circumstances and of ordinary sense would have. There are many different types of negligence, and each state follows different laws regarding negligence when it comes to a legal standpoint. In this post, our Chicago personal injury law firm will explain to you the different types of negligence and what they mean.
What Are the Types of Negligence?
Whether your case ends with a settlement at a personal injury mediation or you take it to trial, you will need to prove negligence on the other person’s part. There are different types of negligence in regard to legal terms. The most common of these are comparative, contributory, gross, vicarious, medical, and modified comparative negligence. We will provide examples of each of these types of negligence down below.
Comparative negligence or comparative fault is one of the more common types of negligence. This is when the person pursuing the case, also known as the plaintiff, is partially responsible for the damages.
Say a driver slams on their brakes out of nowhere and the car behind them crashes into their tail end. In this rear ended collision, the accident is the front driver’s fault because they slammed on their brakes too suddenly. However, the car behind was later found to be following too closely. This is an example of comparative negligence. Illinois law presumes that the driver who rear-ended the other vehicle is at fault. However, this presumption can be rebutted by the rear-ending driver in cases where the other driver caused a driving hazard that could not be avoided.
In comparative negligence states, the amount awarded to the plaintiff in a personal injury case reduces by their own percentage of fault. If the jury determines that the plaintiff (driver following too closely) was 30% at fault for the accident, they will take away that percentage. So if the damages totaled $10,000, the plaintiff would only receive $7,000 of that.
Contributory negligence is a system that many states are choosing to leave behind as of late. This type of negligence does not allow a plaintiff to collect any damages at all if they played a part in the accident that caused their injuries. Using the same scenario above, the plaintiff would not receive any compensation because they contributed to their accident.
Gross negligence occurs when a person intended to cause harm or otherwise showed a lack of concern or regard for the safety of others. This differs from general negligence in that, with general negligence, the person did not mean for their actions to cause harm. With gross negligence, the person either intentionally injured another person or did not seem to care that their actions would likely injure someone.
Vicarious negligence occurs when someone else is held accountable for the actions of another person (often a minor) or animal. For example, if a person’s dog or child injures another person, they may be held liable for those actions through vicarious negligence.
Medical negligence is what may eventually result in a medical malpractice case. It is when a doctor or other healthcare professional fails to provide the necessary level of care that is required of them. In other words, a medical professional does not meet the standard of care that a similarly-skilled provider would provide in the same circumstance.
Medical negligence can appear in a variety of different situations. Perhaps the most obvious case is when a medical professional makes an unacceptable, potentially fatal or otherwise detrimental error while performing surgery. Failure to diagnose a harmful condition or the misdiagnosis of a harmful condition may also be a prime example of medical negligence. Another example would be failure to properly advise a patient of the dangers and risks associated with certain treatments and procedures.
Proving medical negligence may be more difficult than proving other types of negligence. To be successful in your claim, you must answer two questions. These are: what was the appropriate standard of care for the specific instance in question? And did the medical professional in question deviate from that standard of care?
Modified Comparative Negligence
Some states follow a system that combines both comparative and contributory negligence, also known as modified comparative negligence. There are two ways that states may consider modified comparative negligence: 50% bar and 51% bar.
In a 50% bar system, an injured plaintiff can recover damages so long as they are no more than 50% at fault. This means that even if they are 49% at fault, they can still collect damages. If the court finds them to have 50% or more of the responsibility, they receive nothing.
On the other hand, a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% bar allows a plaintiff to hold 50/50 responsibility and still receive compensation.This means if the plaintiff and the defendant both hold 50% of the responsibility, the plaintiff may still collect compensation. However, if the plaintiff holds 51% of the responsibility or more, they will dismiss the case entirely.
Does Chicago Have Comparative Negligence?
Chicago, as well as the state of Illinois, as a whole, uses the modified comparative negligence system. More specifically, they use modified comparative negligence with a 51% bar. What this means is that the only way that an Illinois citizen wouldn’t be able to collect compensation for his or her injuries is if they were the party that carried the most fault. In the case that both parties carried equal part blame and split 50-50 liability, a Chicagoan plaintiff can still collect damages for their injuries.
What Types of Damages are Awarded in Negligence Cases?
In addition to the numerous different types of negligence, there are also different types of damages that may be awarded in a negligence case. These are economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. In a negligence case, a plaintiff has the potential to collect some or all of these types of damages.
Economic damages refer to actual monetary losses that one might find in the form of a bill or receipt. This might include any of the following:
- Medical expenses for both past and future bills
- Property damage
- Lost income
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Rehabilitation costs
- Medication costs
- Household services
- Costs related to special household construction projects to accommodate victim’s injuries.
- Funeral and burial expenses, if applicable
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses
Non Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are a bit trickier to calculate. This is due to the fact that these damages are not reflected in the form of a receipt of bill. Rather, the court will base them on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. This may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Damage to reputation
- Disability or disfigurement
- Physical impairment
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of support, companionship, or consortium
Punitive damages, also sometimes called exemplary damages, are a bit different than both economic and non-economic damages. Instead of damages meant to compensate the victim for his or her injuries, these mean to punish the negligent party. The court generally reserves punitive damages for companies or other large entities who knowingly put people in danger. The injured party will still receive a monetary award, but it is more as a means of punishment than it is compensation for their injuries. These types of damages exist to hold the liable party responsible and prevent others from getting injured in similar situations.
How Do I Know If My Injury Was a Result of Someone’s Negligence?
The majority of accidents occur because of another person’s recklessness or negligence. To determine if your injury falls into this category, ask yourself this: Was the other party less careful than myself or than they ought to have been in this situation? If the answer is yes, they were probably exhibiting negligence.
There are some other things to consider that might negate the other party’s negligence. For example, if you were somewhere you were not supposed to be when you got injured, the other person may not be liable for premises liability. The same goes for if you were somewhere where you should’ve probably expected this type of activity to occur that resulted in your injury.
If you were also careless or negligent in the situation, the other person may still hold some fault, but the court may deduct your compensation by the extent of your own responsibility. This, as we learned, is a case of comparative negligence.
In addition to the person who actually caused your injuries, there may be other people who hold liability, as well. For example, if a negligent person caused an accident while on the job, their employer may also be legally responsible. If the accident occurs on property that poses obvious danger, the property owner may be liable for failure to maintain or safeguard their property. If this sounds like your own case, you may need one of our Chicago premises liability attorneys. Similarly, if a defective product caused the injury, the manufacturer and seller of that product may hold liability. For this type of case, see our Chicago product liability attorneys.
Contact Curcio Law Offices for Assistance in Your Negligence Case
If you or a loved one received injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you have a right to compensation. At Curcio Law Offices, we have decades of collective experience handling your personal injury and negligence claims. Contact our Chicago-based attorneys today to see if you have a feasible case. Please feel free to schedule an appointment via our website or give us a call here at 312-321-1111.