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Common terms in civil actions

If a person is involved in a tort action, they may benefit from having an understanding of the different terms involved in the proceedings. The terms fault, contributory fault and tortfeasor are commonly used and have been specifically defined in Illinois Statutes.

According to the provisions outlined in the statutes, fault is defined as an omission or act that is negligent. This definition also extends to willful, wanton or reckless actions in addition to breaches of warranty. Fault is also defined as a proximate cause of physical damage to property or the cause of injury or death to a person. Contributory fault is defined as any fault that was is contributed by a person bringing the civil action. A plaintiff's assumption of risk or wanton misconduct might also be considered contributory fault.

A tortfeasor is a designation assigned to individuals who are at fault for the damages that might be compensated in a lawsuit. This excludes the plaintiff's contributory fault, but may include a plaintiff's employer even if that party is not involved in the action. The term still applies to individuals who have chosen to settle an action with the plaintiff outside of court.

Learning these terms may provide a person with a basic understanding of some of the players involved in a civil action. However, there are a number of other factors that might affect a claim and its resolution. Those who are seeking compensation for damages that were allegedly cause by another party's negligence might benefit from working with an attorney. An attorney who is familiar with personal injury accident cases might be able to provide a client with representation and advice throughout the proceedings.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, "Illinois Compiled Statutes", October 09, 2014

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