If you were involved in a motor vehicle collision in Georgia, you are likely thinking about your options for seeking financial compensation. Generally speaking, in order to seek financial compensation after a traffic crash, you can file an auto insurance claim or you can file a lawsuit against the liable motorist who caused the accident. In many cases, the injured party will start the process of seeking financial compensation by filing an auto insurance claim. That claim can involve a first-party claim through the injured party’s insurance company, or a third-party claim through the at-fault driver’s insurer. When an auto insurance claim is insufficient to cover a person’s losses, she or he might then file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
When a person files a car accident lawsuit, the defendant might raise the issue of comparative fault as a defense strategy to avoid paying the full amount of damages or any damages at all, depending upon the circumstances. What is comparative fault, and how can it affect your Georgia car accident lawsuit? Our Georgia car accident attorneys can tell you more.
Understanding Comparative Fault
Comparative fault, which can also be known as comparative negligence or contributory negligence in some states, is an affirmative defense. The defendant in an injury lawsuit may raise the issue of comparative fault if there is reason to believe that the plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident in which that plaintiff was injured, or if the plaintiff is partially at fault for the severity of his or her injuries. Different states have their own comparative fault rules, and Georgia uses what is known as a “modified” comparative fault rule.
In order to understand what we mean by modified comparative fault, it is important to learn more about “pure” comparative fault states and contributory negligence states. In a “pure” comparative fault state, if a defendant can successfully prove that the plaintiff in a car accident case was partially at fault, that plaintiff can still recover damages—whether the plaintiff was anywhere from 1 percent to 99 percent at fault. However, the plaintiff’s damages award will be diminished by that plaintiff’s percentage of fault. In a contributory negligence state, a plaintiff is barred from recovery if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff is even 1 percent at fault. Modified comparative fault states fall in between.
Georgia’s Modified Comparative Fault Law and Car Accident Claims
In a modified comparative fault state like Georgia, a plaintiff can recover damages in a car accident lawsuit even if the defendant successfully shows that the plaintiff was partially to blame, as long as the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault. When the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault, that plaintiff’s damages award will be diminished by his or her portion of fault. However, if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was 50 percent or more at fault, the plaintiff will be barred from recovery.
Contact an Experienced Georgia Auto Accident Lawyer
If you have questions about seeking compensation after a car crash or concerns about comparative fault, one of our Georgia auto accident lawyers can help. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys online or call our firm at (404) 529-3476 for more information.