Can I Recover Damages in an Accident Case if I Was Also Negligent?
From car accidents caused by distracted driving to serious large truck and bus accidents resulting from drowsy or drunk driving, injury victims are able to seek compensation by filing an accident claim against the at-fault driver. In most situations, an injured party will start the claims process by filing an auto insurance claim through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Sometimes the matter of the injury victim’s own fault will arise during the auto insurance claims process. For example, the at-fault driver might inform his or her insurance company that the claimant was also negligent and should not be eligible for compensation. In other scenarios, allegations of comparative fault or contributory negligence might arise in an auto accident lawsuit when the defendant raises the issue of comparative fault as a defense in his or her case.
We want to tell you more about how comparative fault works in Georgia, and when it can affect an injury victim’s ability to recover compensation or damages in an accident case.
Comparative Fault Does Not Automatically Bar a Plaintiff’s Recovery
The first and most important thing for you to know is that, even if you are partially to blame for the accident, your own negligence will not necessarily bar you from obtaining compensation or recovering damages. To be sure, under Georgia law, an injured plaintiff can still recover damages as long as she or he is less than 50 percent at fault for injuries or damages. Once a plaintiff is 50 percent or more responsible, then the plaintiff is barred from receiving any type of compensation or damages. This is known as a “modified” comparative fault law.
States have different laws concerning comparative fault and contributory negligence. In a “pure” comparative fault state, a plaintiff can recover damages whether that plaintiff is 1 percent responsible or up to 99 percent responsible. That plaintiff’s damages award will then be diminished by his or her percentage of fault. Other states, like Georgia, follow a “modified” comparative fault rule. Some states bar a plaintiff from recovery when the plaintiff is 50 percent or more at fault (as Georgia does), while others with a modified comparative fault system bar a plaintiff from recovery once that plaintiff is 51 percent or more at fault. In “pure” contributory negligence states, plaintiffs are entirely barred from recovery if they are even 1 percent at fault.
How Does Georgia’s Comparative Fault Law Work?
In an accident case in Georgia, comparative fault might diminish a plaintiff’s damages award. For example, let’s say a plaintiff is injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. That drunk driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 percent, which is more than double the legal limit. That driver took a wrong-way entrance onto I-75 in Marietta and crashed head-on into the plaintiff’s vehicle. The evidence clearly shows that the drunk driver—the defendant—caused the collision. If the drunk driver had not entered the highway in the wrong direction, the collision would not have occurred.
However, the defendant finds out that the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt when the collision occurred. The defendant argues, as such, that the plaintiff was partially at fault for his injuries. The court ultimately says the plaintiff was 10 percent at fault for the severity of his injuries and reduces his damages award accordingly. If the plaintiff initially was awarded $1,000,000 in damages, that award would be reduced by 10 percent, or $100,000, and the plaintiff would recover $900,000.
You should keep in mind that a reduction in damages is not a given. If your accident lawyer can provide evidence that demonstrates you are not responsible, your award will not be reduced.
Contact a Marietta Accident Lawyer
If you have questions about accident claims and comparative fault, a Marietta car accident attorney can assist you. Contact The Strickland Firm today for more information.