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Who can be sued in a car accident case?

Few things in life can change the tenor of a day like a car accident. They happen so quickly and suddenly that you may be overwhelmed. Identifying who may be responsible for your resulting medical bills, lost wages, and other losses can be confusing — but knowing the right answer for “who is liable?” is crucial.

If you’ve been in a car accident in Chicago and need help paying for medical or repair bills, the responsible party must be made clear before any legal action can be taken. That’s not always as simple as it sounds, and sometimes professional help is required.

The car accident lawyers in Chicago at Langdon & Emison have the experience and know-how to help you seek the best possible compensation, either from an insurance settlement or a court verdict. Call us today at (312) 855-0700 or contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.

In the meantime, let’s explore some ways the at-fault party is determined.

What does at-fault mean?

Briefly, “at-fault” means who is legally responsible — or liable — for an accident, which means they are also responsible for the resulting damages.

Whether someone is liable is usually determined by whether they failed to do the accepted bare minimum to avoid causing an accident. The legal term for this concept is “negligence”. Technically, a party is negligent any time they fail to exercise their expected “duty of care”, and this breach in duty directly leads to an injury incident and its resulting damages.

In many cases, determining who was negligent is clear. If one car rear-ends another, the former is at-fault because they were following too closely. A motorist running a stoplight, thereby causing an accident, is at-fault because they failed to obey the traffic signal.

In other situations, it’s not always that easy to determine who is at fault. The cause-and-effect behind the accident may be unclear. Or, multiple parties may be involved. In these cases, it is up to the injury victim and their Chicago car accident lawyer to investigate the accident, identify possible breaches in duty of care, and trace those breaches directly to the client’s injuries.

Modified Comparative Negligence: How Illinois Determines Fault

Illinois uses a traditional at-fault system, also called a “tort liability system.” This means that the level of responsibility for an accident must be determined before deciding how compensation is paid.

In cases where two or more parties contributed fault, each party is responsible for paying their assigned portion. This is called a “comparative fault” system and Illinois uses a “modified comparative negligence” system. Illinois’ rules hold that an injured party can be awarded damages from a defendant so long as their assigned portion of fault is less than half. If the plaintiff’s fault is determined to be 50% or more, they are not eligible to receive compensation from any other party.

The percentage of fault also determines who pays what amount of compensation. If the victim contributed fault to the accident, then their award will be reduced by the calculated percentage.

Should you have an accident in the Chicago area where someone else is at fault, your personal injury lawyer will determine how much fault you may be deemed responsible for before approaching the insurance company or initializing legal proceedings.

Even if you are accused of partial fault, the other party is responsible for legally proving this. Many defendants will attempt to reduce the potential damages they pay for by alleging contributory negligence. However, you and your Chicago car accident lawyer will prepare for these strategies and attempt to document the other party’s fault to the extent possible.

At-Fault Parties In An Accident

Drivers seeking compensation from another party, be it another driver or an insurance company, aren’t limited to the car that hit them. Just about any third party can be sued for compensation if they’re proven to be at fault and negligent.

Possible liable third parties can include:

Another Driver

Most likely, the other party in an accident will be another motorist, particularly one who was driving dangerously. Their actions can be used to show that they were negligent and contributed to an accident that could have otherwise been avoided.

The Owner of the Vehicle

This isn’t always the same person as the other driver. If someone lends their vehicle to someone who should not have been trusted with it, the vehicle owner could be liable for compensation. An example of this is if a parent lets their teenager drive their car despite knowing they were inexperienced. Note that this doesn’t apply if the vehicle is stolen.

The Employer of the Driver

If the at-fault driver was driving for work-related reasons, their employer could be held liable for compensation. This is called the “theory of vicarious liability.” It can also encompass negligence on the part of the employer if they failed to properly train the driver, maintain the vehicle, or hired a driver with known traffic violations (speeding, DUIs, etc.) that should have disqualified them from being employed.

The Manufacturers of the Automobile

A defective vehicle part can play a role in causing an accident. Tires that blow out or brakes that malfunction, for example, may be the basis for a product liability claim – either against the manufacturer or other parties involved in the chain of distribution. Usually, fault based on defective products in Illinois is decided by strict liability. The plaintiff only has to prove that the product was dangerous and used as intended by the manufacturer.

Property Owners, Government Entities and Municipalities

One common contributor to automobile accidents is poor road conditions. The state and local government has a responsibility to make sure the road is in good repair – no potholes, worn pavement, etc. – and that due diligence has been done to keep the road in good shape. If that’s not the case, you might be able to sue the local government or even the construction contractor responsible for the upkeep.

Property Owners

It rarely happens, but some accidents occur due to negligence by a property owner failing to keep their property in a safe condition. This could be a bush obscuring a traffic sign because it’s grown too close to the road or a tree branch that’s been allowed to fall in the road due to disease or poor weather. If that’s the case, you can bring a “premises liability” claim against the owner. They must be shown to have known the conditions were hazardous and failed to rectify the situation, proving their negligence.

Have you been in an accident?

Call a Car Accident Lawyer In Chicago Today! Don’t hesitate to give Langdon & Emison a call if you’ve been involved in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. Medical bills, car repair, loss of wages, and stress and anxiety may all stem from the accident and you need compensation to help get on with your life.

We have over 30 years of experience in the Chicago area winning personal injury cases, so we have what it takes to win yours. Call us today at (312) 855-0700 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-risk consultation.