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What is Georgia’s Contributory Negligence Law?

Posted in Personal Injury on February 13, 2019

Negligence is the central legal concept on which most personal injury claims revolve. Negligence is someone’s failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care to prevent injury to another person. Many personal injury lawsuits in Atlanta also involve the concept of contributory negligence. This concept has the power to bar a plaintiff from financial recovery in certain situations, or reduce recovery, based on the state’s strict modified comparative negligence law. If you become a plaintiff in Georgia, you need to understand the state’s negligence laws.

What Does Georgia’s Contributory Negligence Code Say?

The text of Georgia’s contributory negligence law is in Georgia Code Section 51-12-33. This statute states that in a legal action against a party for a personal injury in which the plaintiff is partially responsible for the injury, the courts will determine the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. Then, the judge will reduce the amount of the plaintiff’s awarded damages in proportion to the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

In pure comparative negligence states, a plaintiff may be 99% at fault for injuries and still recover 1% of compensation. Georgia, however, follows a modified comparative negligence rule. The plaintiff may only be eligible for compensation if he or she is 49% or less responsible for damages claimed. If the courts find the plaintiff 50% or more at fault, he or she will lose the right to any recovery.

If the courts find the plaintiff less than 50% at fault, it will reduce the plaintiff’s award by an amount equivalent to his or her fault. For example, a plaintiff the courts find 10% responsible for the accident would receive $90,000 of a $100,000 award, or 90% of the total award amount. Do not assume you are not eligible for any recovery if you contributed to your personal injury accident in Georgia. The state’s comparative negligence rule could mean you are still eligible for at least partial compensation.

Section 51-11-7 of the law states that if a plaintiff could have avoided his or her damages by the use of ordinary care, the plaintiff may lose any right to financial recovery. However, if the plaintiff could not have reasonably avoided injury, the defendant cannot escape liability – even if the plaintiff contributed to the injury in some way. A plaintiff can still receive financial recovery despite his or her own negligence in Georgia.

How do I Limit Liability from an Accident?

Georgia’s contributory negligence law could significantly reduce or even eliminate your compensation after suffering a personal injury in Atlanta. It is important to hire an attorney to maximize your odds of compensation. A lawyer can help you gather evidence and build a strong case for the defendant’s negligence. Insurance companies know the state’s modified comparative negligence law and will often try to use it to place at least a portion of the blame on the injured victim. Standing up for your rights against insurance companies may take help from an attorney.

A lawyer can explain rights you have during a personal injury claim that an insurance company may not want to disclose. For example, the right to negotiate a higher settlement amount during mediation, or the right to receive an explanation for why the insurance company denied a claim. A lawyer will not let an insurance company take advantage of you or use the state’s contributory negligence rule against you unfairly. Relying on an attorney to handle your case for you can help minimize the risk of a comparative negligence defense.

If you wish to maximize your compensation despite a potential hand in what happened to you, hire an attorney. An experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney will understand the details of Georgia’s contributory negligence law and know how to use the rule in your favor. A lawyer can also inform you of any recent changes to the laws that may apply to your case. Contact the team at Butler Wooten & Peak, LLP about your case today! (404) 321-1700