Illinois Personal Injury Laws
Suffering an injury can strain your peace of mind and your budget between medical bills and lost work time and wages. A possible avenue of recovering your losses is through personal injury litigation against the person or entity you believe is responsible for your injury.
Personal injury lawsuits can be complicated, though. You may not receive the compensation you request if the court finds you partly responsible for the accident. You'd also need to be wary of the statute of limitations on your case among plenty of other legal considerations.
If you've been injured in Rockford, Chicago or Joliet, use LawInfo's Illinois personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.
Illinois Contributory Fault
Illinois courts determine how much in damages a plaintiff of a personal injury case will recover based on their contributory fault. Contributory fault measures the negligence of both the plaintiff and the defendant in a case, meaning that the plaintiff may share some or most of the blame for their injuries.
If the court finds that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent at fault, they may be barred from recovering compensation. If the plaintiff shares less than 50 percent of the fault, their compensation may be proportionately reduced.
A party's negligence is determined by four key elements and the common law principle of the "reasonably prudent" person. The four elements are best understood when posed as questions:
- Did the defendant owe a duty of care to safeguard the plaintiff against harm?
- Did the defendant breach that duty?
- Was the defendant's breach of duty the cause of the plaintiff's injury? (And was the injury foreseeable and preventable by the defendant?)
- Are the plaintiff's injuries actual damages that can be compensated?
The legal principal of a reasonably prudent person compares a party's actions concerning the injuring incident to those of a law-abiding, responsible person in a similar situation.
Illinois Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute "runs out," a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Illinois's civil statute of limitations includes:
- Two years for medical malpractice.
- Five years for general fraud. Two years after the death of a fraudulent decedent.
- Two years for personal injury.
- Five years for injury (or damage) to property.
- Ten years for written contracts.
- Five years for oral contracts.
- One year for wrongful death.
Illinois Actual and Punitive Damages
The plaintiff's goal in a personal injury lawsuit is to recover damages for the defendant's negligence. Damages are monetary compensation that is supposed to remedy the physical, psychological and financial distress the plaintiff suffered as a result of their personal injury. There are two types of damages plaintiffs may recover—actual damages and punitive damages.
Actual (or compensatory) damages are compensation for specific injuries, both personal and financial. Actual damages may be recovered to recoup lost work time and wages, the costs medical treatment and pain and suffering. It's important to keep records of your medical bills and time off from work as these can help you calculate your actual damages.
Punitive damages aren't recovered for any specific loss. Instead, they are levied against the defendant as punishment to discourage negligence in the future. The court will determine whether to award the plaintiff with punitive damages and how much the award will be.
According to Illinois law, punitive damages may only be awarded if actual damages are also awarded. Punitive damages can only be awarded if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant's negligence was malicious or recklessly indifferent to the plaintiff's safety and rights. Plaintiffs may receive punitive damages valued at up to three times the value of the actual damages. If the defendant's negligence was found to be criminal and they are sentenced to incarceration, the plaintiff may receive more punitive damages beyond that limit.
Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney
Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.
Additional Personal Injury Articles
- Injured in Illinois: FAQ
- Personal Injury Law in Illinois: Basic Concepts
- I was injured in Illinois. Can I file a lawsuit against the party that caused my injury?
- How long do I have to hire an attorney for a personal injury claim in Illinois?
- My child was injured in Illinois, can I bring a personal injury claim on their behalf?
- What to expect in a personal injury trial in Illinois.