What's the 51% Rule? If you live in a state that uses this rule, like Illinois, it can determine both whether or not you have a viable personal injury case and how much the claim is worth. This is how it works.

Your negligence is assigned a value.

Most people don't realize that the 51% Rule exists until after they've been in an accident. It's also called the "modified comparative fault" rule, and it's used to assign a value to your share of the blame for the accident.

Usually, the first time you'll hear about it is when the insurance company and adjusters for the other party get involved. At that point, you may be told that you are 51% or more to blame for the accident. Then your claim is denied, and you're left with the out-of-pocket costs for any lost wages and accident bills that you incurred from the accident.

Even if your claim isn't denied, the idea of modified comparative fault can also be used to reduce the amount of any award that you are offered. For example, if your claim is for $10,000 and the insurance company assigns 40% of the blame for the accident to you, your claim can be reduced by that 40% to $6,000. 

How is the 51% Rule applied?

Imagine that you're out with friends after work at a bar. You have three beers and decide to head home. As you walk out of the bar, you fall in an open pothole in the parking lot that's close to your car and break your arm. You end up having multiple surgeries and are off work for several months. The insurance investigator and adjuster decide that you are 60% to blame for the accident because you were drinking. They say that the beers caused you to be tipsy and stumble into the pothole, rather than walk around it. Your claim for your injuries is denied.

At that point, you get an attorney, like those represented at http://www.danielgoodmanlaw.com, involved. The attorney is able to use evidence and the testimony of others to show that you drank the beers over the course of a couple hours while eating dinner at the bar. You weren't acting tipsy. and you seemed alert and oriented to others. The attorney is also able to find evidence that the bar had been told several times that the potholes in the lot were dangerous. Other patrons had fallen before. In addition, the light in the parking lot over your car was out and had been for several weeks, which made it impossible for you to see the hole before you tripped. In the end, the jury agrees with you and your percentage of blame is reduced to 10%. That allows you to collect all but 10% of your claim.

If you've been involved in an accident, consider involving an attorney from the start. Because of the complexity of the modified comparative fault rule, you can be at a disadvantage when trying to negotiate with an insurance company on your own. An attorney can often help you negotiate a fair settlement earlier, hopefully without going to trial.