When you experience losses or get hurt due to the actions or recklessness of another party, there is legal recourse. Most accidents are not solely the fault of one party, though, and in Georgia, your own actions could impact your ability to collect compensation in a claim.
Scroll down to our Comparative Negligence in Georgia infographic:
Why? Courtrooms operate based on comparative negligence in Georgia.
This complex legal doctrine makes seeking out a lawsuit after an accident more complicated. Each party has an incentive to attribute blame to the other party because each party will get held financially responsible for the accident based on their percentage of fault. What’s more, if a defendant can prove that the plaintiff was at least 50% responsible, then the plaintiff won’t get any compensation at all.
Comparative negligence is used in different types of lawsuits from car collisions to slip and fall accidents. If you think you have the basis to seek out a lawsuit in Georgia and you think comparative negligence might impact your settlement, then you’ll want to know everything you can about this legal standard. Get all the details below.
What is Comparative Negligence?
By law, negligence is defined as failing to uphold a legal duty to provide for the care of someone else. While most negligence isn’t against the law, negligent actions often result in significant losses, so it is usually considered a tort, or civil wrongdoing. Under federal and state law, individuals impacted by a civil wrongdoing can seek out recourse by pursuing a lawsuit for compensation. When negligence is defined as a crime, impacted individuals can also seek out criminal charges.
While all states recognize negligence as a civil tort, not all states use the same standards when issuing compensation to impacted individuals. Some states allow impacted individuals to seek out compensation regardless of how much their own actions contributed to the accident. Other states have strict rules that only allow individuals to pursue compensation when they are found to be less than half at-fault for the accident.
In Georgia, courtrooms operate on a comparative negligence standard.
Comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to seek out compensation when they are found to be less than 50% at fault for an accident. In other words, you won’t be eligible for any compensation if a courtroom determines that you at least 50% to blame for the accident. If courts determine that you’re less than 50% to blame for the accident but you still contributed to it, then they’ll attempt to attribute a specific percentage of fault to you and the defendant. The amount of compensation you’re entitled to will decrease based on your percentage of fault.
Georgia Assumption of Risk Doctrine
The most common defense strategy against negligence claims is to argue that the other party was also at fault, but that’s not the only defense strategy available in Georgia. The assumption of risk doctrine is another argument that you can use if you get accused of negligence. The assumption of risk doctrine argues that the plaintiff should bear the legal responsibility of the accident because they willingly and knowingly chose to expose themselves to risk.
For instance, parachuting is a clearly dangerous activity. If a person knows that parachuting is risky and reads over a specific list of risks involved provided by the company and they later get hurt, then the person offering skydiving services could point out that the plaintiff chose to participate knowing the risks involved.
Here are the elements needed to use the assumption of risk doctrine:
• The plaintiff knew about the risks involved in an activity
• The plaintiff understood the risks involved in the activity
• The plaintiff voluntarily exposed themselves to the risk
If you’re a business that offers risky activities, then one of the best ways to establish the assumption of risk is to have participants sign liability waivers. These waivers will protect you from most lawsuits, but they won’t protect your company against claims of gross negligence or recklessness.
Strict Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence takes into account the plaintiff’s actions when determining how much compensation is fair to award to the plaintiff. It still allows the plaintiff to seek out some compensation even if they were partially at fault. Strict contributory negligence, on the other hand, bars plaintiffs from seeking out a lawsuit unless they were 0% at fault. Considering the strictness of this rule, only a few states continue to use this standard.
Common Examples of Comparative Negligence in Georgia
The concept of comparative negligence in Georgia is complex, and it’s even trickier to figure out how it will impact your real-world case. Here are a few examples of how comparative negligence would work after an accident:
• Party A is making a left turn in his motor vehicle and strikes Party B, who was speeding. Party B later sues Party A. Under comparative negligence, Party A may be found 60% at fault for failing to make a safe turn and check for traffic, while Party B is found 40% at fault for spending. Party A would then pay 60% of the losses associated with the accident.
• Party A is drinking at Party B’s house. Party B knows their stairs in the backyard are broken, and they fail to warn Party A before inviting them over. Later, Party A falls and gets hurt on the broken stairs. Under comparative negligence, courts may find that Party A was 25% at fault for being intoxicated, while Party B is 75% at fault for failing to warn his guests about a known danger at his house. Party B would be expected to pay 75% of Party A’s losses.
• Party A is riding their bicycle at night. They travel over a crosswalk without checking for cars. Party B is driving and not speeding. They don’t see Party A and hit them. Party A is fatally wounded, and his surviving relatives later seek out a wrongful death claim. Under comparative negligence, court might find that Party B was 90% at fault for not paying attention at the crosswalk, but Party A is about 10% negligent for not checking for cars. Comparative negligence dictates that Party B would pay for 90% of the losses.
Types of Lawsuits Where Comparative Negligence Comes into Play
Comparative negligence in Georgia will come into play in many types of lawsuits including:
• Car accidents
• Premises liability
• Products liability
• Medical malpractice
• Wrongful death
How Settlement Amounts Change Due to Comparative Negligence
The biggest impact that a comparative negligence standard has on a plaintiff’s case is how it will impact the settlement amount. Depending on how much fault is attributed to you, your settlement amount will get either reduced or eliminated entirely. The amount of reduction in your settlement will be directly tied to the percentage of fault the court assigns to you.
For example, let’s say you prove to the court that your overall losses associated with the accident totaled $100,000. The court also determined that you were 25% negligent, while the defendant was 75% at fault. In this case, you’d take 25% of $100,000, which is $25,000, and subtract it from $100,000. The defendant will be liable for the remainder, which is $75,000.
Do You Think You Have a Case? Consult with a Georgia Accident Lawyer
Have you recently been injured, or have you suffered significant losses as a result of the actions of someone else? If that other party or entity had a legal obligation to provide for your care and they failed to do that, then they’ll be considered a negligent. Per civil law in Georgia, a negligent party is legally responsible to cover the financial losses of their actions.
In most accident situations, more than one party is negligent, though. When that happens, it’s up to the court to analyze the details of the case, attribute fault to each party, and estimate how much compensation is warranted. Using comparative negligence in Georgia, an injured plaintiff can collect compensation unless they were 50% or more at fault for the accident.
Are you wondering how comparative negligence in Georgia might impact your civil lawsuit? Are you still on the fence over whether seeking out a case could be worth your time and effort? It’s in your best interests to consult with a Georgia accident lawyer about your situation. A good lawyer will help you better understand your legal options and rights. They’ll also go over the facts of your case to help you make an informed decision on whether seeking out a claim is worth it.
Are you ready to schedule a consultation? Reach out to our office now to learn more about how we can help.