When someone else’s negligence injures you, that person has to pay for your damages under Georgia’s civil laws. In some cases, however, 100% of fault does not belong to one person. Other defendants or the plaintiff may share responsibility for the accident. In these situations, Georgia uses a comparative negligence statute to determine fault and recovery amounts.
The Georgia Code enacts a modified comparative negligence law. This law states that as long as a plaintiff is less than 50% responsible for the damages in question, he or she can still receive partial compensation during a civil claim. A comparative negligence law assigns a portion of fault to all parties involved in an accident, such as an auto accident or slip and fall. The modified portion of Georgia’s fault law limits who can recover compensation only to those parties who are 49% or less at fault for the accident.
In pure comparative negligence states, a plaintiff can be as much as 99% responsible for an accident and still recover some compensation for his or her damages. These states do not cap the amount of fault allowed for financial recovery. In Georgia, however, an injured victim cannot be more than half responsible for an accident if he or she is claiming damages. Having the majority share of fault will bar the plaintiff from recovery.
In the past, most states did not use comparative negligence laws. They used contributory negligence laws instead. With a contributory negligence system, any percentage of fault – even just 1% – bars a plaintiff from recovery. While some states still use contributory negligence laws, most have shifted to more lenient comparative negligence systems. In Georgia, a small amount of fault will not prevent you from obtaining compensation. However, a percentage of negligence will impact how much money you receive.
In Georgia, the civil courts will dock your recovery by a percentage that matches your amount of fault if the defendant succeeds in using a comparative negligence defense. Take a car accident case, for example. If Driver A was speeding when Driver B pulled out in front of her and caused an accident, both drivers would share fault for the collision. Both would be somewhat to blame for breaking a roadway rule – Driver A for speeding and Driver B for failing to yield the right-of-way.
Under Georgia’s comparative negligence rule, Driver A could still recover some compensation from Driver B for her medical bills and property damages. The courts would reduce the driver’s recovery, however, by a percentage that matches her degree of fault. If the courts find Driver A 15% to blame for speeding and Driver B 85% responsible for failing to yield, Driver B would only have to pay 85% of Driver A’s damage award.
If someone says you contributed to the accident for which you are seeking damages, this could diminish the amount you receive in financial compensation in Georgia. If you were in Driver A’s position, for example, and the amount Driver B was supposed to pay you was $80,000, the courts would reduce your award by your 15% of fault ($80,000×0.15=$12,000). The total amount you would recover, therefore, would be $68,000.
Fault for an accident is sometimes difficult to determine. In general, liability will go to the party who breached a duty of care to the plaintiff and caused his or her injuries. If two or more parties are liable, all may have to contribute to the plaintiff’s recovery. If you were recently injured in an accident in Georgia, speak to an Atlanta personal injury attorney for help with the claims process. A lawyer can help you determine fault, hold someone else responsible and navigate Georgia’s comparative negligence law on your behalf. Legal representation could enable you to recover maximum compensation for your losses.
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