Can I Recover Damages if I Was Partially at Fault for an Accident?
Car accidents leave people with a lot of questions. The important questions to address first involve doing whatever you need to do to get proper medical treatment to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally after your ordeal. But once you’ve seen the doctor, it is also important to start considering what you need to do to recover financially from the effects of a collision.
You know that if someone caused your accident, you can receive compensation through a lawsuit or an insurance settlement. But what if the accident was the result of different factors combined together? What if your actions contributed to the cause of the crash? Can you still recover compensation in Georgia?
The answer depends on the circumstances. It is a good idea to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. A lawyer who helps accident victims can evaluate your case and your options for recovery. Legal advice early on can prevent common mistakes that keep people from receiving the compensation they should after an accident. In addition, an experienced attorney can help with a variety of tasks, from talking to insurance companies to helping you find medical specialists and therapists to meet your medical needs.
Accident Liability in Georgia is Based on Evidence of Fault
In some states, car accidents are generally treated according to a “no-fault” policy. Each driver’s insurance usually covers the expenses for medical treatment and car repairs for their policyholder, regardless of who caused the accident.
Georgia law assigns liability for those expenses based on fault. That means it is extremely important to collect evidence to demonstrate the causes of an accident. This can include photographs of the accident scene and the vehicles involved, statements of witnesses, footage from traffic cameras and dashcams, police reports, and medical records. One way an attorney can assist right after an accident is with the collection of evidence when it is most readily available. As time passes, the memories of witnesses become less reliable, and the evidence at the accident scene, such as skid marks, becomes harder to detect. Preserving evidence as soon as possible is a vital task if you want to recover compensation after an accident in Georgia.
The Comparative Fault Rule in Georgia
Accidents are usually caused by a variety of factors converging together. One driver may take their gaze away from the road to look at a cell phone at the same moment another driver delays in signaling a turn. If the two drivers collide, the fault for the accident is shared between them. The driver who waited a little too long before putting on the turn signal might be considered 10% at fault, and the driver who looked at a cell phone instead of the road might be found to be 90% at fault.
In Georgia, if you are less than 50% at fault for causing an accident, you can still recover compensation under the state’s modified comparative fault or contributory negligence rule. The amount you receive will be reduced by a percentage that corresponds with your degree of fault. However, the fact that you are found to be partially at fault for causing the accident will not prevent you from recovering compensation.
Application of the Comparative Fault Rule
The first task is to review evidence to determine the factors that led to an accident and the resulting injuries. Then after that, it is necessary to assess who is responsible for each of those factors. For example, if one driver backed into another because a pile of trash was blocking their view of the road, then the property owner who piled up the trash could be partially liable for the accident.
After the court or the parties involved have determined which parties are responsible and their respective percentages of fault, then if the person seeking compensation has a degree of fault that is less than 50%, that person can recover from the others found to be responsible.
In the example above where a driver was found to be 10% at fault because of waiting too long to signal a turn, then that driver’s damage award would be reduced by 10% to account for their share of fault. If the court awarded $100,000 in damages, then that amount would decrease by $10,000 which equals 10% of the total award. The court would instead award $90,000.
Avoiding Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Ability to Recover
Insurance companies spend millions of dollars on advertising designed to make them look friendly and supportive. But realistically, like every business, they are trying to make money. And they can increase their profits by keeping their payouts as low as possible.
That means they often pressure accident victims to accept a settlement that is far lower than they are entitled to. Even worse, they may trick you into saying something that can be used to place the blame on you so that they don’t need to pay. It is important to be very careful what you say to any investigators or insurance representatives. Don’t answer questions until you’ve received advice from an attorney, or better yet, let your attorney handle the questions for you.
It is also crucial to follow the doctor’s instructions after an injury. If you don’t, the insurance company might argue that your actions rather than the accident are the cause of your injuries.
Michael M. Day Can Help You Recover After an Accident
When you have questions after an accident, it is helpful to have an experienced guide to turn to for assistance. The dedicated team at Michael M. Day Law Firm is ready to help. We can evaluate your case, help collect and preserve evidence to demonstrate liability and advocate on your behalf to get the recovery you deserve. We work to keep you informed and protected throughout the process and to ensure that settlements provide fair compensation for your losses even if you were partially at fault for the accident. For a confidential free consultation, contact us today to find out what your case is worth.