Injuries send nearly 46 million Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year. Falls and car crashes are the cause for nearly 36 million of those visits, judging from the most recent year of numbers available.

Injuries are as varied and unique as the people who suffered them. But the law sees them as sharing one thing. Any lawsuit that tries to get compensation because of these injuries must decide who was at fault.

Emergency rooms busy with 45 million injuries

Visits to America’s emergency rooms have been at record highs during the past few years. Judging from the most recent numbers, it would take only 2.5 years for the number of visits to equal the total number of people in the entire United States.

The large numbers of visits suggest more people are getting help sooner. About two-thirds of visits to emergency rooms happened after the normal hours of doctors’ offices. Also, people over 75 years old, nursing home residents and infants are the three biggest groups of patients.

People at fault for not living up to their responsibility

The law expects everyone to try to be reasonably responsible for not hurting other people. So, we all have a “duty of care.” Those who fall short of their duty are “negligent.”

If a person’s negligence causes harm, like an injury or financial or other suffering, often the law finds them at fault for the damage. Sometimes, just one person is obviously at fault for an injury, such as muggers attacking victims. But usually, more than one person is at least a little fault, like when a careless driver hits a careless pedestrian.

Comparing fault in Illinois

The rules vary between states, but Illinois uses a “comparative fault” rule. Following that rule, the court finds the total damage from the accident (for example, $1 million in medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of income)

Then the jury decides how to split up the fault between the people involved. Maybe the injured person was 25% at fault for the accident, but the other person was 75% at fault. In that case, the injured person gets an award of $1 million minus 25%, for a total of $750,000.