Comparative Negligence Can Lower Your Personal Injury Recovery

Jun 28, 2016

Comparative Negligence Can Lower Your Personal Injury Recovery

Car accidents are common and unfortunately consistently lead to lawsuits. While all drivers should have insurance that covers any property damages and physical injuries they cause, many do not. A significant number of drivers head out with too little or no insurance at all. This means injured people may need to sue the driver directly to recover. Lawsuits also arise from car accidents when a driver’s insurer denies the injured party’s claim. Denials occur for a variety of reasons – some of which are valid and others are not.

Victims of car accidents arrive at the decision to sue the party at fault for the collision by a number of different roads. However they get to this point, it is important they work with an experienced Augusta auto accident attorney. The lawyers at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. have been helping crash victims recover for the injuries for years and will aggressively fight for you in court.

Georgia Negligence Law

The basis of a personal injury claim from a car accident is usually negligence. Your claim states that the other person was negligent in their actions which led to the collision that caused your injuries. Because of their negligence, they should be responsible for the costs of your injuries.

Negligence is a relatively simple legal concept once it is properly explained. The law states that everyone has a duty of reasonable care toward others when they drive. This is because driving a vehicle is the type of action that could foreseeably cause harm to others. The duty means everyone is responsible for acting in a prudent manner behind the wheel. We are all required to obey traffic laws and behave in a way that avoids hurting others or causing situations that could hurt others. Most people do this every day without realizing it is a duty placed upon them – it is just common sense when they are driving.

However, when people behave in a way that puts other people’s safety at risk, they breach their duty of care. A breach of duty can be any number of actions, many of which are illegal. For instance, speeding and weaving in and out of traffic is not just illegal, it is also reckless and increases the risk of a traffic accident.

Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Case

There are four elements of any negligence case:

  1.       Duty;
  2.       Breach of duty;
  3.       Causation; and
  4.       Damages.

In order to receive a beneficial outcome to your case, such a settlement or jury award, you have to prove all of these elements. You must prove that the other person had a duty of care toward you. This is not difficult when the other person was driving and you were a passenger, fellow motorist, or pedestrian. Drivers have a duty of care to all others on the road.

Proving the breach of duty can be the most difficult step. If the defendant was ticketed for a traffic violation or found guilty of criminal charges related to the incident it will be easier to prove. However, if the defendant was not ticketed or charged with a crime, you must provide evidence to the court of how the defendant breached their duty.

Once you demonstrate duty and breach of duty, you must prove that the defendant’s actions actually resulted in your injuries. The breach of duty must have directly caused the harm you suffered. Causation can become very complicated in some situations, but it is often very clear in car accidents.

Last you must prove your damages. You can ask for any amount of money you wish to recover, but to be awarded the damages you need to demonstrate your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

However, even if you prove all of these elements, the defendant has ways to challenge your recovery. He or she can claim that you contributed to your injuries and that you should recover less or not at all because of your own actions.

Pure Contributory Negligence

A few states follow the law of pure contributory negligence. In Alabama, for instance, if the defendant can prove that you contributed to the accident at all – in any way – you cannot recover any damages.

This means even if the defendant’s actions mostly caused the accident, but the collision also happened because you were going 10 miles over the speed limit, you will not receive damages.

This is often viewed as a harsh law and is not followed in Georgia. The only way you will need to deal with contributory negligence is if your accident occurred out of state and now you are dealing with a lawsuit in a jurisdiction away from home.

Comparative Negligence

In general, comparative negligence is a partial defense. If the defendant can prove you were also responsible for the accident, this reduces the damages he or she must pay you. However, you still recover, even if it is less than the amount you hoped for.

When this type of defense is raised, the case gets complicated. The defendant will try and prove your actions were largely responsible for the accident while you want to show that your actions had minimal effect on the accident.

Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law

There are two types of comparative negligence laws: pure and modified. Georgia follows a modified comparative negligence law.

Under Georgia law, you can recover damages so long as your degree of fault in the accident is less than the defendant’s degree of fault. In this type of case, the jury may determine who was responsible for what amount of the accident. For instance, were you 60 percent responsible for the accident or only 10 percent responsible? To recover, your amount of fault must be 49 percent or less.

Your damages will be reduced by the amount that you are responsible. If you are 10 percent responsible, the damages you would have recovered had you not been at fault will be reduced by 10 percent.

Call an Augusta Auto Accident Attorney

If you are in the middle of a fight to recover damages from a car accident but the defendant is claiming you are also responsible, you need a legal advocate on your side right away. Personal injury cases where the defendant uses modified comparative negligence as a defense become complicated. You need an experienced Augusta GA car accident injury attorney who will fight to prove you are less responsible for the accident than the other person.