How to Measure Shared Fault in a Car Accident

Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2022 at 9:31 am    

When you discuss your accident with the insurance company or your attorney, you may hear the phrase “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence.” These are legal terms used to describe how insurers decide who is responsible for an accident, who should be compensated for their injuries, and how much they should receive. What does it mean for you in your accident?

Rules of Comparative Negligence

The harshest rule for determining fault is contributory negligence. Under this rule, if the victim in an accident contributed in any way to the accident or their injuries, they are barred from any recovery. Only four states (Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia) currently use contributory negligence, as it is difficult for a victim to show they had no fault in an accident.

In “pure” comparative negligence, victims may recover even if they were partially at fault in their accident. In pure comparative negligence, the percentage of fault is determined, and the award is reduced by that percentage. For instance, someone could be found to be 25 percent responsible for their accident and still recover 75 percent of their accident-related losses.

Georgia courts follow a “modified” comparative negligence rule. In this system, fault is determined the same way it is in a pure comparative negligence system, but injured parties may only recover if they are less than 50 percent responsible for the accident. If you are 50 percent or more to blame, you cannot recover anything for your accident-related losses.

Some states use a modified rule that allows recovery below 51 percent of fault, but the majority of states follow either Georgia’s rule or the pure comparative negligence rule.

How Fault is Determined

Georgia code section 51-11-7 explains that a defendant can be relieved of fault if it can be shown that “the plaintiff by ordinary care could have avoided the consequences.” In other words, if you saw the accident coming and could have stopped in time but did not, then you are at least partially responsible for the accident.

Determining fault is not a precise science, and there is no exact percentage given to “texting while driving” or other careless actions. However, when fault is apportioned after an accident, the insurance companies and their attorneys will look at several factors when negotiating a settlement.

  • Alcohol or drug use. Even the use of legal drugs can be a factor if it is shown that their use affected the driver’s reaction time or judgment.
  • Speed limits and other road restrictions. The investigation will determine whether or not both drivers were obeying the speed limit, turn signals, and other requirements.
  • Distractions. Texting, eating, and talking on the phone are all potential reasons why someone might not avoid an accident.
  • Vehicle maintenance. If you applied your brakes, but they were worn to the rotors, you could not have stopped in time. These types of mechanical flaws can be seen as faults by insurers.

For example, suppose you are driving west and come to an intersection. You see a car coming from your left and put on your brakes, but they slip, and you go into the intersection. The other driver has been drinking, was driving too fast, and had a red light. When it comes time to apportion fault, the court will look at the following factors:

  • Your brakes failed. Hypothetically, you could bear 30 percent of the responsibility for the crash.
  • You had a green light. You were in the right to continue forward.
  • The other driver was drinking and speeding. They might bear 70 percent of the responsibility.
  • They had a red light. They should have stopped.

Although you tried to stop and did not but could have if you had been diligent about your car’s maintenance, you are less responsible than the other driver, and you can still recover compensation for your injuries. In cases like this, there is room for negotiation.

How We Can Help

Because there is no set formula for fixing blame, you should have an attorney at your side during these negotiations. We can review the reports and documents and see where your fault can be lessened and where the other driver’s fault is greater.

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you should get legal assistance before you speak with any insurance companies or their attorneys. Let our legal team guide you through the process. Call the Augusta car accident attorneys of Chris Hudson Law Group at 706-863-6600 for a confidential consultation about your case.

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