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Comparative Negligence

Helping Clients Navigate Georgia's Comparative Negligence Law

In every accident, there are many different sides and perspectives. Imagine a five-car pile-up on Interstate 285, for example. Not only does it cause a chaotic scene and possible road closures, but it's unclear how the accident began or what caused the chain reaction. However, if a crash results in any injuries to victims, it is essential for them to determine who was at fault. Every driver will likely deny liability and point fingers in different directions. In many cases, multiple drivers acted negligently and may be at fault for injuries to others.

In Georgia, the question of fault in an accident can mean the difference between a quick insurance settlement and no award at all. Because of Georgia's modified comparative negligence standard, every victim needs an experienced attorney like the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd, LLC to fight for their right to the compensation they deserve. Don't let partial liability for an accident deter you - call Slappey & Sadd, LLC today at 404-255-6677 to discuss your rights and options.

Negligence 101: The Basics

Claims that stem from an accident or injury are generally based on a claim of "negligence." Negligence is "the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do." From car accidents to slip and fall cases, this is generally the legal basis to hold a person or a corporate entity responsible for one's injury.

Generally, the legal theory is then broken down into four elements: (1) that the individual or corporate entity had a duty to the injured party; (2) that the individual or corporate entity breached said duty; (3) that the breach of that duty was the cause of said injury (referred to as "causation"); and (4) that the injured party suffered damages.

Multiple Parties Can be Negligent

A common defense to negligence cases, however, is that the injured party was also negligent and that causation is shared by both parties. For example, if Driver A blows a stop sign and hits Driver B, but Driver B was also on his cell phone not paying attention to the road, who is responsible for the accident? Do both parties get to file a claim against each other? Do no parties get to file a claim?

Each state has laws that govern what happens in this situation. Some states prohibit you from recovering any compensation if you at all contributed to the cause of the accident. However, Georgia is not one of those states. Instead, Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence standard, which can reduce the compensation to which you are entitled, but not necessarily eliminate it.

Georgia is a Modified Comparative Negligence State

What does that mean? Two major issues arise from Georgia's comparative negligence statute:

  1. The percentage of causation - In Georgia, the statute dictates that if comparatively, the plaintiff is found less responsible than the defendant even by 1%, then he or she is entitled to damages. However, if that same plaintiff is found to be 50 percent or more responsible for causing the accident, he or she is barred from recovery at all. Thus, it is very important to build a case from the beginning and be able to convince a jury or judge with clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is more at fault than you.
  2. Comparative Negligence Percentages Affect your Award. Further, your percentage of fault will reduce your award by that percent. If you have $100,000 in damages and were determined to be 30% at fault, your maximum award will be reduced by $30,000.
How are Comparative Negligence Percentages Determined?

Determining who is at more fault and at what percentage is extremely complex. A determination is ultimately made at trial before a jury or judge, based on the evidence presented by each party supporting their assertion the other party was more at fault. The following is a list and explanation of some forms of evidence:

  1. Written Evidence. Official accident reports are a primary piece of evidence. The report is usually crafted by the first responders and police on the scene. In addition, the testimony of the witnesses on the scene either corroborate or challenge the police report. Further, testimony from those who have experience interpreting reports, such as police officers and insurance adjustors, may be used as expert witness testimony to persuade a jury to either believe or not believe the report.
  2. Witness Testimony. In addition to witnesses who were at the accident scene, there may be witnesses who were not present but can attest to certain issues of causation. Expert witnesses, for example, who have experience with accident reconstruction may testify to the likelihood of causation. Vehicle experts and engineers may contribute testimony as to manufacturing errors in the vehicles or road conditions.
  3. Deposition Testimony. An experienced attorney would likely have off-site interviews under oath, called depositions, conducted before trial. This evidence allows the court to hear the first-hand accounts of the parties as well as their stories being reviewed - and often dissected - by opposing counsel.

An experienced attorney will use all these tools and more at his or her disposal to make sure to keep their client's liability to a minimum because every percentage point counts for the client.

Georgia Attorneys, Slappey & Sadd, LLC for Personal Injury Cases

Because Georgia uses modified comparative negligence, it is important to get help from an attorney who has the resources to contest allegations of liability on your part. It may not only mean more compensation but in some cases, any award at all. For help with your personal injury case in Fulton County, Cobb County, and the rest of Georgia, call Slappey & Sadd, LLC. The personal injury lawyers at Slappey & Sadd, LLC have the experience that you need. We have the resources and skill to get you the award that you deserve under the law. Call (404) 255-6677 or contact us online today for your free consultation and let our experience and guidance take it from there.

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Scott is the best. He followed my case all the way. We won. I respect him highly. I would definitely recommend them to anyone. Brenda N. – Roswell, Georgia