Georgia tort laws give injured individuals a cause of action to seek compensation for damages when another party causes their injury. First, however, you must prove that the other party breached a duty of care owed to you and that breach of duty caused your injuries. You must also prove that you sustained damages due to the other party’s negligence or wrongdoing.
However, at-fault parties can raise many defenses to reduce or negate their liability, including contributory fault.
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What is Contributory Fault?
The at-fault party can raise allegations of contributory fault as a defense to liability. According to this common-law defense, injured parties cannot recover damages for personal injuries that they contribute to or cause.
All states have adopted some form of contributory fault for personal injury cases.
Contributory fault falls under one of three categories:
- Contributory negligence
- Pure comparative negligence
- Modified comparative negligence
Contributory fault can be used as a defense in all personal injury cases, including motor vehicle accidents, premises liability claims, dog bites, and product liability claims.
What is the Difference Between Contributory Negligence and Comparative Negligence?
Only the District of Columbia and four states still use contributory negligence. The other states have opted to use comparative negligence because it is not as harsh of a standard as contributory negligence.
Under contributory negligence laws, the injured victim cannot recover compensation for damages if they are partially responsible for causing their injury. For example, suppose a jury finds that an accident victim is 1% at fault for causing a motorcycle accident. In that case, the rider is barred from recovery, even though the other driver was 99% at fault.
Conversely, states that adopted a pure comparative negligence standard do not bar an accident victim from recovering compensation for damage even if the person is 99% at fault for the cause of their injury.
However, under comparative negligence laws, compensation is reduced by the person’s percentage of fault. So, for example, if a pedestrian is 30% at fault for causing a pedestrian accident, their compensation is reduced by 30%.
Some states have adopted a modified comparative negligence law. They bar recovery if the injured party’s negligence in causing the accident is above 50 or 51 percent.
Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Law
Georgia adopted a modified comparative negligence law with a 50% bar for the injured party. As long as you are not more than 50% at fault for causing your injury, you can still recover compensation for your damages.
For example, a jury awards you $500,000 for damages. However, the jurors find that you are 20% responsible for causing the accident that resulted in your injuries. Therefore, the amount you receive for damages would total $400,000, which is the total award less 20%.
Insurance Companies Try to Shift Blame to the Victim
Insurance companies understand Georgia’s comparative negligence laws. They see the law as a way to save money.
If they can blame the accident victim for more than one-half of the fault, they can avoid paying anything for the insurance claim. If they can shift any blame to the victim, they can save money.
Therefore, be cautious when talking to an insurance company. The claims adjuster may ask for a written or recorded statement.
It is not in your best interest to make a formal statement or answer questions without legal advice. An innocent comment or statement could be twisted to imply you accept some of the blame for the cause of the accident. If so, it can reduce the value of your claim.
Instead, talk with an Augusta accident lawyer as soon as possible about your case. An attorney can help you recover the money you deserve for injuries and damages.
Steps to Take After an Accident to Avoid Comparative Negligence Allegations
Things that you can do after an accident or injury to improve your chance of recovering a fair settlement amount include:
- Report the accident or injury immediately to the appropriate entities
- Never accept fault for the accident, say you are sorry, or otherwise apologize for the accident
- Take photographs and make a video of the accident scene
- Ask eyewitnesses and bystanders for their contact information
- Seek medical treatment for injuries as soon as possible
- Keep detailed notes about all conversations regarding the accident
- Do not use social media or post information online about your accident or injuries
- Document your damages by keeping copies of all medical bills, records, receipts, and bills
If an insurance company, adjuster, or investigator contacts you regarding the accident, tell them to contact your injury lawyer.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Augusta Personal Injury Lawyer
Insurance adjusters can be tricky to deal with because they are always searching for ways to reduce the value of an injury claim. Let an experienced legal team deal with the insurance company to get you a fair settlement for your claim. Call an Augusta personal injury attorney for a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options.