Contributory negligence is a concept of central importance in any personal injury case, including car crash claims. It essentially refers to the fault of a person in causing an accident. In legal terms, negligence is when a person owed you a duty of care but failed in that which directly resulted in your injuries. When you wish to recover compensation in a car crash claim, you must be able to demonstrate the negligence of the other party.
However, it is often the case that more than one individual is at fault in a road accident. For instance, if you were running a red light when a drunk driver slammed into your vehicle, you and the other driver will be found negligent. In such a case, the comparative and contributory negligence laws of Georgia apply. These laws essentially determine how to distribute the negligence between the negligent parties, and how their respective degrees of negligence will affect the damages to be awarded.
How Does Contributory Negligence Law Work?
The contributory negligence law, as noted above, comes into play when both the plaintiff and the defendant may be found at fault in an accident. When this is the case, the laws of the state grant the court or the jury the right to assign a percentage of ‘fault’ to both parties. This percentage is assigned based on the evidence, witness statements and other materials available in the case.
The lawyers of both parties will typically try to blame the other and seek to have the maximum degree of fault pinned at the other party. At the end, the jury or the judge will pronounce a concrete percentage of fault for both parties.
This percentage is of critical significance in a Georgia car crash claim. It essentially determines the amount of actual damages you are going to receive.
For a clearer illustration of this, consider this example. Suppose you are entitled to $20,000 in compensatory damages in an Atlanta car accident. If the jury finds you 10% at fault for the crash, your damages are trimmed by this percentage. Consequently, you actually receive $18,000 in damages. Similarly, if you are found 40% at fault, your damages are reduced by 40%. Using the above example, you receive only $12,000 in compensation.
Many states use a pure comparative negligence law. Under this law, you recover compensation as long as you are less than 100% at fault. In other words, you can recover damages even when you are 99% at fault.
However, that is not the case with Georgia car crash claims. This is because Georgia additionally uses a rule known as the ‘Modified Comparative Fault’ rule which is defined in Georgia Code Section 51-12-33.
What is Georgia’s Modified Comparative Fault Rule?
The Modified Comparative Fault rule uses a modification to the pure comparative negligence law. This modification says that you can recover damages in a Georgia car crash claim only if your share of the fault is 49% or less. If a jury or court finds that you are 50% or more at fault in an accident, you are not entitled to any damages at all. In such a case, the jury turns down your claim because you are not legally allowed to receive any compensation whatsoever.
What Factors Contribute to Fault in a Car Crash?
If you perform any acts that reflect negligence on your part as a driver, these may affect the percentage of your fault in a car accident. Typical factors that can affect fault include speeding, running a red light, failure to yield right of way, driving under the influence, being distracted at the time of the crash, failure to turn on the headlights, or not using the indicator properly.
However, even when you are partly at fault in a car accident, don’t give up. The comparative fault law means that you still have a chance of getting compensation as long as you are less than 50% at fault. Your focus in such a case should be to prove that the other party’s negligence was greater than yours. This can be done by providing evidence from CCTV cameras, witnesses, police reports and other sources. A good attorney will be immensely helpful for you when it comes to proving the fault of the other party.
Hiring a Reliable Atlanta Car Accident Attorney
If you have suffered a car accident in Atlanta, it is best to consult a reliable lawyer before you file the claim. Here at Reginald Greene, we specialize in helping car crash victims recover the compensation they deserve. Whether or not you were at fault, we will help you determine the amount of damages you can expect to receive, and then work with you through filing and winning the claim. Contact us today to discuss your car crash claim with our lawyers.