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How Can Comparative Negligence Affect a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Anyone who has been injured in a car crash or another type of motor vehicle collision in the Atlanta area should be thinking about filing a claim for financial compensation. Yet it is important to learn more about the ways that comparative negligence might affect your ability to recover damages after filing a car accident lawsuit. If you are concerned that you may be partially at fault for the crash in which you sustained serious injuries, or if you have reason to believe the at-fault driver is likely to argue that you bear some responsibility for your injuries, it is critical to begin working with an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney. In doing so, you could avoid having your damages award reduced or, worse, being barred from recovery entirely.

What is Comparative Negligence?

You might be wondering: what is comparative negligence? According to Georgia law, comparative negligence refers to the “reduction and apportionment of award or bar of recovery according to the percentage of fault of parties and nonparties.”

The statute clarifies that when an action is brought against someone and the plaintiff is partially responsible for damages, the judge or jury, in its determination of the award, must determine the percentage of fault of the plaintiff and reduce the number of damages based on this percentage of fault. Further, the plaintiff cannot receive damages if they are 50 percent or more responsible.

What does this all mean? Each state has its own comparative negligence rule. Some states have what is known as a pure comparative fault rule in which a plaintiff can always recover damages even if she is up to 99 percent at fault, but the damages award will be reduced by her portion of fault. Other states follow a pure contributory negligence rule, in which a plaintiff will be barred from recovery if she is even 1 percent at fault. Georgia follows a modified comparative fault or comparative negligence rule in which a plaintiff can recover damages as long as she is not 50 percent or more at fault, at which point she will be barred from recovery. If a plaintiff is 49 percent or less at fault, she will recover damages, but her award will be reduced by her portion of fault.

How Does Comparative Negligence Work in Practice?

In a car accident lawsuit, comparative negligence will only come up if the defendant raises it as a defense strategy. You should keep in mind that you are not automatically going to have your damages award reduced if the defendant argues you are partially to blame. With help from your car accident lawyer, you can refute the defendant’s argument.

For purposes of understanding how comparative negligence works in practice, we want to give you an example: let’s say you were injured in a car crash as you were going through an intersection. You were texting while driving, but the defendant was drunk and ran a red light, colliding with your vehicle. The defendant argues that you should be barred from recovery, or at least have your damages award reduced because you were also negligent in texting while driving.

If the court awards $100,000 in damages but says you are 49 percent at fault, you will recover damages. However, the damages award will be reduced by 49 percent or $49,000 in this example, and you will recover $51,000. If the court says you are 50 percent at fault, you will be barred from recovery and will not receive any portion of the $100,000.

Contact Our Atlanta Car Accident Attorneys

If you have concerns about comparative negligence or need assistance with your auto accident lawsuit, one of our experienced and dedicated Georgia car accident lawyers can help. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys for more information.