The Importance of Negligence and Comparative Negligence Laws to Your Car Crash Case
Unfortunately, car accidents are on the rise in our country and on Georgia roads. According to the National Safety Council, deaths caused by car crashes were eight percent higher in 2015 than in 2014—the highest yearly increase in 50 years. Georgia was one of four states that had the highest increase in fatalities—at 22 percent. If you are an unfortunate victim of a car wreck, you cannot assume that you will easily obtain the compensation you deserve. You will most likely have to fight with the negligent driver’s insurance company over whether you are even entitled to compensation.
Whenever you are involved in a legal dispute or a lawsuit, it is important to understand the laws that apply to your case. They will affect your case not only if it goes to trial, but also throughout the negotiation process, and will be a determining factor in the amount of compensation you receive.
What You Have to Prove Under Negligence Laws to Obtain the Compensation You Deserve
In car accident cases—like other types of personal injury cases—the basis for making the other driver responsible for compensating you is the law of negligence. There are four elements to establishing the other driver was negligent that you must prove to convince his insurance company to agree to a fair settlement or a jury to award you compensation in a trial. These four elements are:
- Duty. You must first show that the negligent driver owed a duty to you. Fortunately, this is easy to prove. All motorists have a duty to obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner.
- Breach of duty. The next element you must prove is that the negligent driver breached his duty to you by his actions or inactions. This is judged on what a reasonably prudent person—an average person—would have done in similar circumstances. This is often an area of dispute with insurance adjusters, and you may need to present evidence, such as the police report, eyewitness testimony, video surveillance tapes, or other evidence to support your claim that this duty was breached.
- Causation. You must also show that the motorist’s breach of his duty to you caused your injuries. This is another issue insurance adjusters try to use to deny liability—especially if you had a preexisting injury or you did not seek prompt medical care.
- Damages. Finally, you must prove that you suffered damages as a result of the other driver’s negligent actions and the amount of your damages. This is the amount of money you are seeking and includes compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This is also an issue insurance companies typically dispute.
The driver that hit you could have breached his duty to you in a number of ways. Some common ways his negligent actions may have caused your crash include:
- Violating traffic laws, such as by failing to yield, running a red light, or speeding.
- Engaging in distracted driving, such as talking on a cell phone or texting, eating and drinking, or fiddling with instrument controls.
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Tailgating your vehicle.
- Making an unsafe lane change.
- Failing to drive slowly enough for weather conditions like ice, fog, rain, or snow.
Will Georgia’s Modified Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Your Case?
In some accidents, the victim was partially responsible for causing the crash. You should not be surprised if this is an area of dispute—even if it is clear you did nothing wrong. Georgia follows the modified comparative negligence rules. The following is a brief overview:
- If you were 50 percent or more at fault in causing your crash, you are barred from receiving any compensation.
- If you were 49 percent or less at fault in causing your crash, you are entitled to compensation from the other driver, but the amount you receive will be reduced by the percentage you are found to be at fault.
For example, if the total amount of your damages is $400,000 and you were found to be 20 percent at fault, you could receive $320,000 in compensation—still a substantial sum.
If you or a family member were injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the laws that apply to your case and how to fight with insurance adjusters to obtain the settlement you deserve. Call us at 877-401-6689 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with David Brauns.