When serious large truck accidents happen in Atlanta, occupants of smaller vehicles involved in the collision frequently sustain life-threatening and deadly injuries. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) emphasize that most serious and fatal injuries in 18-wheeler collisions are passenger vehicle occupants given the size and weight of most big rigs. Indeed, the IIHS and HLDI indicate that the “main problem” when it comes to frequent serious and fatal injuries in large trucking collisions is “the vulnerability of people traveling in smaller vehicles.”
When large trucking accidents happen in Georgia, many people assume that the truck driver is at fault. To be clear, truck drivers are often liable for crashes that result in serious injuries as a result of the truck driver’s drowsy driving, distracted driving, or aggressive driving. At the same time, it is important to remember that drivers of passenger vehicles can also be liable for injuries.
If you do file a claim against a truck driver or another party following a truck crash, what will happen if the defendant alleges that you are also to blame for the collision? In other words, how will your case turn out if the defendant raises the issue of comparative negligence? Our Atlanta trucking accident lawyers can give you more information.
What is Comparative Fault in an Atlanta Truck Accident Case?
What is comparative fault, or comparative negligence, and how can it affect a truck accident lawsuit? First, you should know that comparative fault or negligence is a legal principle that is used to reduce a plaintiff’s damages or bar a plaintiff from recovering damages due to the plaintiff’s own negligence or fault. Comparative fault is a defense that a defendant in a truck accident case or another type of personal injury lawsuit may raise in order to avoid being liable for the full amount of damages, or to avoid being liable for any damages at all if the plaintiff is barred from recovery.
In addition, you should know that states can implement “pure” comparative fault rules or “modified” comparative fault rules. Under Georgia’s comparative negligence law, Georgia truck accident cases would apply a “modified” comparative fault rule. What does this mean? Pure comparative fault states allow a plaintiff to recover damages in a trucking accident case regardless of the amount of the plaintiff’s fault (as long as the plaintiff is not 100 percent at fault). In any pure comparative fault state where a plaintiff is found to be partially liable, the plaintiff will recover damages, but their total award will be diminished by their percentage of negligence. In modified comparative fault states, a plaintiff will be barred from recovery if they are either 50 percent or 51 percent at fault, depending on the state. In Georgia, a plaintiff will be barred from recovery if they are 50 percent or more at fault. Otherwise, the plaintiff will recover but will have their damages award reduced by their percentage of negligence.
Examples of a Plaintiff’s Behavior That Could Result in a Comparative Negligence Defense
What kinds of actions by a passenger vehicle driver could lead a defendant truck driver or another defendant to raise the issue of comparative fault? The following are some examples:
- Following too closely behind a large truck;
- Passing a large truck on the right;
- Driving in a large truck’s blind spot;
- Intentionally trying to prevent a large truck from passing you;
- Driving drunk;
- Engaging in distracted driving, such as texting while driving; and/or
How Comparative Negligence in Georgia Could Impact Your Truck Accident Case
If a defendant does raise the issue of comparative fault in a truck accident case, how will it impact your claim?
First, you should know that it is not a foregone conclusion that your damages award will be reduced or that you will be barred from recovery. You will have an opportunity to refute the defendant’s comparative negligence defense. If the defendant is successful in proving that you were partially at fault in causing the truck accident, you could be barred from recovery if the defendant can show that you were 50 percent or more at fault. If the defendant is only successful in proving that you were less than 50 percent at fault, you will still recover damages. However, your award will be diminished by your portion of fault.
Ways of Avoiding a Large Truck Crash in Atlanta
You can take steps to avoid a large truck crash, and to reduce the likelihood that a defendant will suggest you are partially at fault for a large truck collision that has occurred. Consider the following safety tips to reduce your likelihood of being involved in a semi-truck collision in the Atlanta area:
- Always pass a large truck on the left and avoid hovering in the truck’s blind spot;
- Leave more following space behind a large truck, recognizing that semi-trucks can take quite a long time to stop unexpectedly;
- Never engage in distracted driving, especially when you are driving near a large truck;
- Avoid consuming alcohol before you get behind the wheel; and
- Follow all traffic rules and avoid any aggressive driving tactics.
Contact a Trucking Accident Attorney in Atlanta
If you or somebody you love got hurt recently in a large truck crash in the Atlanta area, it is important to get in touch with an experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Our firm knows how complicated and difficult trucking accident cases can be, especially when the truck driver or another named defendant has raised the possibility of comparative fault.
We want to emphasize that the mere fact a defendant has raised the defense of comparative fault is not a guarantee that you will be barred from recovery or that your damages award will be reduced. To be sure, our lawyers can help you to gather important evidence to show that the defendant is fully liable for your damages and that you should recover 100 percent of any damages awarded to you by the court. Do not hesitate to get in touch with our firm to learn more about how we can help you. Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys online or reach us by phone at (404) 529-3476 today.