Find out how Georgia’s negligence law relates to your personal injury case
Under the law in Georgia, a tort is an “unlawful violation of a private legal right,” and negligence is one of several types of torts. Negligence describes a situation where an individual fails to exercise the necessary duty of care and as a result another individual becomes injured or property becomes damaged.
Negligence is the legal foundation upon which most personal injury cases rely, which is why it’s vital that accident victims have a basic understanding of how it is defined and handled under Georgia law.
How to prove negligence in Georgia
In order to prevail on a claim for negligence, there are essentially 4 elements that need to be proven by the injured party. The injured party must demonstrate:
- That there was a duty of care owed to the injured party by the alleged negligent party (the defendant),
- That the duty was breached,
- That there’s an “actual causal” connection linking the conduct of the defendant and the harm that resulted, OR “proximate causation” relating to whether or not the harm could have been foreseen, and
- That actual harm or damages resulted from the conduct of the defendant.
All of these elements need to be met in order to win your case. If the injured party cannot prove duty and breach of duty, then causation and damages aren’t necessary. Without causation, there’s no case.
Assigning fault in Georgia
Georgia liability laws are written in a way that the injured party’s ability to recover damages is affected based on their contribution to the incident in question. There are 2 legal principles in play here. The first is that Georgia is an at-fault state. The second is that Georgia follows a modified comparative negligence theory.
• At-fault. The fact that Georgia is an at-fault state means that when there is an incident involving personal injury or property damage, the individual determined to be “at fault” will be financially responsible for medical expenses, property repair expenses and any other damages. In every personal injury action, including vehicle collisions, the court or the insurance company will want to assign fault. This may mean assigning 100% fault to the defendant, or this may mean assigning a percentage of fault to each of the involved parties, depending on the circumstances of the case.
• Modified comparative negligence. Also referred to as “contributory negligence,” this refers to the amount of fault the injured party has contributed to the situation that led to their injury. Some states outright bar any recovery in situations where the injured party has contributed in some way to their injury; however, Georgia has a “comparative negligence” standard.
Under a pure comparative negligence standard, the injured party’s damages are reduced by their amount of fault. In a modified comparative negligence approach (the system that’s in place in Georgia), the injured party can only recover as long as they are less than 50 percent at fault for the injuries sustained. However, the amount of the damages that they recover will be reduced in proportion to the amount of their fault.
For example, if the injured party is determined to be 25 percent at fault, then they will still be able to recover compensation — but only recover 75 percent of any final damage award determined in court. If the injured party is determined to be 51 percent or more at fault, then they will not recover any award.
How to win a Georgia negligence claim
The first step in prevailing in any negligence claim is to meet all the required elements. Understanding all of these parts is essential to making a claim to an insurance company or a judge.
If you have been injured in a car accident or sustained some other form of personal injury, and you are working to build your claim, then it is vital that you understand the Georgia negligence statutes. A personal injury attorney may be your best bet because it will mean having someone on your team who can advocate for you through every step in the process.