Accidents are often caused by a confluence of factors, and it is not always possible to assign all of the blame to one party. Under the strict contributory negligence principle, accident victims are unable to recover damages in personal injury lawsuits if they played any role in causing the accident that injured them. That is not the case in Missouri or Illinois as both of these state follow the comparative negligence standard.
Comparative negligence in Illinois
Illinois has what is known as a modified comparative negligence law. This means that accident victims who acted negligently in some way can still recover damages as long as the jury does not determine that they bear 50% or more of the responsibility. Illinois also has a law that prevents the defendants in car accident lawsuits from mounting the seat belt defense. This means that they cannot argue that the plaintiff should be awarded less damages because they were not properly restrained when they were injured.
Comparative negligence in Missouri
The negligence laws in Missouri offer mixed blessings to plaintiffs. The Show-Me State’s pure comparative negligence law allows individuals injured in an accident to recover damages even if the jury determines that they were 99% responsible, but there is no law in place to prevent defendants from using the seat belt defense. In both Illinois and Missouri, the amount of damages that plaintiffs are awarded is reduced to reflect their degree of fault. Before damages are awarded, civil plaintiffs in Missouri and Illinois must prove that they suffered injury, loss or damage as a direct consequence of the defendant’s failure to meet a duty of care.
The standard of proof in civil cases
Most people know that guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, but experienced personal injury attorneys could explain that the standard of proof is not nearly as strict in civil court. In civil lawsuits, the jury bases their verdict on the preponderance of the evidence, which basically means that a plaintiff only has to convince them that their account of the events in question is more likely true than not.