In a recent Illinois personal injury lawsuit involving injuries sustained during an Illinois car crash, the Illinois jury returned a verdict of $500,000 in favor of the plaintiff. The case of Verhaegen v. Bill Smith Auto Parts, Inc. involved an elderly plaintiff, Harvey Verhaegen, who was struck by a tow tuck owned by Bill Smith Auto Parts, Inc. after his vehicle stopped in traffic. The Illinois auto crash verdict was reduced by 50% because the jury found that the plaintiff was 50% responsible for his own injuries.
When there is an issue of comparative fault or negligence, i.e. that the plaintiff’s own negligence also contributed to his or her injuries, Illinois juries are instructed to consider the degree of fault when coming to a decision on a personal injury lawsuit. If the jury finds that the plaintiff is more than 50% responsible then he or she is barred from receiving any reward. However, if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or less responsible for his or her own injuries, then the ultimate award is reduced by the percentage of responsibility. Therefore, in Verhaegen, the award was reduced by 50% because the jury found the plaintiff to be 50% responsible for his own injuries.
In order to determine each party’s degree of liability, the jury must carefully analyze the case facts. In this Illinois auto crash case, the 74 year-old plaintiff was driving on Illinois Interstate 74 when he stopped his vehicle suddenly in the outside lane of traffic. He later testified that the reasons for stopping his car were not clear to him; the plaintiff sustained head injuries and suffered cognitive defects as a result of the Illinois car accident.
As the plaintiff’s car was stopped in the lane of traffic, it was hit from behind by a tow truck owned by the defendant, Bill Smith Auto Parts, Inc. At the time of the car accident, there was moderate to heavy traffic and it was raining. As a result of the Illinois car crash, Mr. Verhaegen suffered head lacerations, subdural hematomas, traumatic brain injury and cognitive deficits.
At the trial, the plaintiff’s attorney argued that he eventually needed to be placed in a nursing home due to the severity of the injuries he sustained during the car crash. However, the defendants argued that the car accident did not cause the subdural hematomas plaintiff was claiming and that therefore the requirement for a nursing home was unrelated to the personal injuries he sustained during the accident. The defendants further claimed that the tow truck driver was not negligent.
The jury found the tow truck driver and the plaintiff to be equally negligent, assigning 50% blame to each. Therefore, the $500,000 verdict returned in favor of Verhaegen was reduced by 50% based on the jury’s assessment that plaintiff was 50% responsible for his own injuries.
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