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Fault and liability in car accidents

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Fault and liability in car accidents

Traffic accidents happen often, with approximately 1.35 million people worldwide dying each year as a result of road traffic crashes, as reported by the World Health Organization. While, of course, these numbers have decreased due to the lockdowns and limited movement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers in recent years, nonetheless, remain troublingly high.

Thankfully, for the state of Georgia in particular, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has reported that the number of traffic-related deaths in the state has been dropping since 2017, with a 2.3% decrease reported last 2018.

Despite such a decrease, it cannot be denied that car accidents still happen frequently, and these unfortunate occurrences result in damage to property, injuries, and worst, as reiterated earlier, loss of lives.

Whenever traffic accidents occur, one of the most pressing questions is the issue of liability. Whose fault was the accident? Who should be held liable for damages and all other consequences of the mishap?

What the laws say about determining liability

Determining liability varies from state to state, naturally because of the varied state laws. Some states bar recovery if found that the plaintiff, or the person seeking to recover damages from another, is at fault, even though slight. These are called the ‘contributory negligence‘ states. 

On the other hand, some states reduce or totally prohibit recovery, depending on the percentage of fault or negligence that can be attributed to the plaintiff. These are your ‘comparative negligence’ states. Of course, some states have made their own modifications to the comparative negligence system, to accommodate the needs and circumstances of their residents.

That said, what system does Georgia follow? How exactly is fault determined in Georgia car accidents? Below is a brief discussion on determining liability in traffic accidents in Georgia, with a final discourse on what to do after a Georgia car accident to help those who might regrettably need guidance.

What fault system does Georgia follow?

In determining liability in car accidents, or any kind of personal injury for that matter, Georgia follows a modified comparative fault system. Along with a few other states, Georgia applies the “50 percent bar rule” when it comes to these kinds of personal injury cases. This is a modification of the ‘comparative negligence’ as discussed above, in that it somewhat quantifies the fault to resolve the issue of liability.

The “50 percent bar rule” is a fault system where a plaintiff or injured party is barred to recover if it can be so proven that he or she is at least 50% at fault for the mishap. If the injured party’s fault is less than 50%, he or she will be allowed to claim against the other party, but the amount shall be reduced reasonably under the circumstances. Otherwise, if the injured party’s fault is 50% or more, there can be no recovery.

How to determine fault in Georgia car accidents

In this kind of fault system, how, then, is fault determined in each car accident? What is the process to actually find out how much one is negligent in a mishap?

Of course, in traffic accidents, determining fault will be based on the evidence obtained during the incident. These pieces of evidence include the filed police reports, the testimonies of both drivers, as well as that of witnesses if any, and the on-site inspection upon arrival of the investigators.

In addition to these standard substantiations, other pieces of evidence that will be looked at in ascertaining liability are the physical state of the vehicles (whether they were safe to be used on the road in the first place), road and weather conditions at the time of the accident, and the overall state of the involved drivers at the time of the incident.

Once these have been obtained and compiled for review, a determination of liability is made. Insurance adjusters, or those in charge of investigating insurance claims, also rely on the information from these materials to determine who is at fault and eventually determine how much the insurance company should shoulder.

Note, again, that in Georgia, because of its modified comparative fault system, it is possible that a review of the evidence would result in both drivers being at fault for the mishap.

What to do after a car accident in Georgia

Driving safely and responsibly prevents traffic accidents from happening, but such accidents do happen for various reasons. In the unfortunate circumstance that you get involved in a car accident, below are the things that you must do.

First, do not panic.

Do not let your emotions get to you. While a car crash is undeniably an alarming occurrence, panicking will most definitely do you more harm than good. Instead, check right away for injuries that may need immediate medical care. When you and any passengers are clear, get out of the car to proceed with the next necessary steps.

Call the police, and then take photos while waiting for the authorities.

Do not take matters into your own hands. The police will professionally handle the situation, so they should be called immediately to the scene of the accident. While waiting for the authorities to arrive, you can go ahead and take photos of both vehicles, the scene and location of the incident, and any other details that are relevant to the investigation.

Ask the necessary details from the other drivers involved.

Among these details are their names, addresses, contact numbers, and insurance information. Some insurance companies might want the license details of those involved, too, so you may want to get these as well. These pieces of information will come in handy especially in the negotiation and settlement proceedings.

Contact a personal injury lawyer.

In connection with these proceedings, the expertise of a personal injury lawyer is beneficial most especially during the period after the mishap. For one, a lawyer can give you professional legal advice on how to go about the matter, especially because you would want to avoid, or reduce at the least, your liability. Of course, he or she will also assist in the negotiation and settlement process, as well as judicial proceedings, should the matter be taken to court.

If you are in the Atlanta area and need any assistance related to car accidents, Musgrove Trial Firm is here to help. Located in Norcross, Georgia, Musgrove is composed of a team of highly skilled and competent personal injury lawyers, who will be able to assist in car accident cases and guide you through the whole personal injury settlement process.

Our office is open and ready to hear your case. Send us a message on our website or give us a call for immediate assistance.