Unlike the handful of no-fault insurance states like Florida—Georgia’s neighbor to the south—in Georgia, it matters who causes a car accident. Georgia’s insurance laws operate on a fault-based system that requires proving liability in an accident and recovering compensation from the liable party’s insurance policy. This sounds like a straightforward process, but car accident causes are not always that simple. What if the fault for an accident wasn’t entirely one-sided but both drivers are partly at fault? Georgia’s comparative negligence insurance laws may apportion fault in car accidents between both drivers. Can an injury victim still recover compensation for damages in Georgia if they were partly at fault for the accident?
When there’s a car accident in Georgia, the insurance companies of the involved drivers—and often the drivers’ Atlanta personal injury attorneys—investigate all aspects of the accident, including interviewing eyewitnesses, viewing traffic camera or dashcam footage, and consulting accident reconstruction specialists to determine fault. In some cases, one driver is clearly at fault for an accident, for example, a driver who runs a red light and hits another vehicle in an intersection. In that case, the at-fault driver’s insurance must cover the damages. In a car accident, the word “damages” refers not only to property damage in a vehicle, but to all consequences of an accident, including the injury victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for their pain and suffering.
While the above scenario is clear, what if a similar accident occurs and the investigation shows that while one driver ran a red light and hit another driver in an intersection, the other driver was exceeding the speed limit by more than 10mph and otherwise might have been able to avoid the collision? In that case, both drivers may share a percentage of fault. According to Georgia’s comparative negligence law, the injured driver who was hit in the intersection may recover compensation for their damages, but the amount they recover will be minus their percentage of fault.
In Georgia, even drivers who are partly at fault for an accident can file a claim for compensation for their damages as long as they were less than 50% at fault. When both drivers share equally in the blame for an accident, neither party may recover their losses from the other. However, rarely are both parties in a car accident in Georgia equally at fault. If one driver is only 49% or less at fault for an accident, they can recover a portion of their damages. Take the above example: if the first driver drives through a red light and hits another vehicle in the intersection but that vehicle was traveling over the speed limit, the driver who ran the red light may be determined as 80% at fault in the accident, while the second driver who was exceeding the speed limit at the time of the collision may be found as 20% at fault. If the second driver’s property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages amount to $100,000 they can still recover $80,000. Their settlement or jury award will be minus their 20% fault.
Sometimes insurance companies in Georgia take unfair advantage of the state’s comparative negligence insurance laws and assign an undue percentage of fault to the injury victim so they can minimize the amount they must pay out on a claim. For victims who experience significant financial losses in a Georgia car accident, it helps to have an Atlanta car accident lawyer investigating the accident to defend their rights.
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