We hope you never experience a car accident—but when it happens, you need to know who is responsible.
Accidents are expensive, they disrupt your schedule, and they can cause serious injury. If you’re not at fault in an accident, you don’t want to be responsible for the cost of repairing your car or medical bills.
Georgia is an “at-fault” state. Whoever causes an automobile accident is financially responsible for losses. However, determining who is at fault in a car accident can be difficult.
Whether it’s an intersection collision or another type of accident, here’s how to determine fault.
What is Negligence?
Determining fault in an accident comes down to negligence.
In an accident, it’s rare that a driver intentionally causes the wreck. Typically, a driver does something careless or unintentional that results in an accident.
However, whether a driver meant to cause an accident or not, they can still be at fault if evidence shows they were negligent.
Negligence is failing to do something that a reasonable person would to with the result of harm to someone else. In terms of a car accident, failing to yield or stop at a stop sign can fall under negligence.
What is Comparative Negligence?
After an accident, a portion of fault is ascribed to each party involved. The comparative negligence rule states that you may receive compensation for damages even if you were partially at fault. However, you may not be more than 50 percent at fault. If so, you are not allowed to file a claim.
For example, if you were involved in an accident where you suffered damages of $100,000 but you were found to be 10 percent at fault, you will still be entitled to compensation but it will be reduced by 10 percent, or in this example, $10,000. Therefore, the money you receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault ascribed to you in the accident. There are many instances where more than one driver was partly at fault for an accident. For instance, one driver may have run a red light while the other driver may have been speeding.
How Do You Determine Negligence?
There are four conditions to determine negligence. To confirm negligence, the evidence must prove all four of these conditions.
- There must be clear evidence of a duty to act.
- There must be proof of the failure of the duty to act.
- There must be proof that the failure was the direct cause of the accident.
- There must be proof that the failure caused harm.
Even with these four conditions, there are variations of negligence. Working with an accident attorney can help your case when comparative or contributory negligence comes into play.
Georgia Modified Comparative Negligence
Georgia law (Georgia Code § 51-11-7) states that a plaintiff may recover damages even if they were negligent as long as their own fault is less than that of the defendant’s. The insurance company or the court will need to review the facts of the case and ascribe a percentage of fault to each driver. As long as your amount of fault does not exceed 50 percent, you may collect damages as a result of the crash.
It is important to note that the amount of compensation you will receive will be reduced by your own fault in the accident. For example, if you were found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident and your damages were $100,000, your compensation would be $90,000. Since your ultimate settlement will be directly impacted by your own negligence, it is of utmost importance that the proper percentage of fault is determined.
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Fault in some accidents is clear-cut. A traffic violation is a primary factor when determining fault in an accident.
If a driver breaks a traffic rule that results in an accident, that driver is likely at-fault for the accident.
However, it’s often more difficult to determine fault. If more than one driver violated a traffic law that causes an accident, the drivers share the responsibility.
If you are a victim in a car accident, accident lawyers can help you collect the information you need to determine fault.
What If I Am Partly at Fault?
There are many factors that contribute to auto accidents and often more than one driver has done something that may be considered negligent. A negligent act is something that you knew, or should have known, could cause harm or injury to another. Some examples of negligent acts are speeding, disobeying a traffic signal, and improper lane changes to name just a few.
In general, the negligent party in an accident is responsible for payment for injuries and damages to others as a result of the crash. However, sometimes both drivers were partly responsible for the accident. When that happens, you are allowed to recover damages as long as you were less than half at fault. This is a part of the law called comparative negligence.
Make sure you call the police when you’re involved in an accident. Police officers know how to control the scene and gather information about the conditions and the drivers involved.
- The police will document the scene, talk to witnesses, and address any traffic violations that led to the accident. The officer in charge of the incident puts all of this information into a police report.
- The officer can also provide an opinion of who is at fault in the accident based on the information gathered at the scene. They factor in the time of day, weather conditions, the direction of traffic, and the angles of impact.
- The police can also use this information to issue a citation to the driver or drivers who violated any traffic laws to cause the accident.
However, the opinion in a police report does not automatically mean the at-fault driver is financially responsible for losses.
Your car accident attorney can use the police report and proof of citations as evidence of fault in court.
If you’re able, take your own notes immediately following an accident.
Take photos. Draw sketches that show the location of the vehicles, traffic lights, or any other critical factors that contributed to the accident.
Let police officers do their job while they’re at the scene, but you’re free to document the facts about the situation on your own, too. Your notes could be helpful information for your insurance company or your accident lawyer if needed.
When you’ve been in an accident, be sure you also call your insurance company.
Your insurance company assigns an adjuster to your claim. This person oversees the investigation of the accident and the settlement of the insurance claim.
- The adjuster uses the police report to conduct their investigations.
- They’ll also speak with witnesses, examine the damage on all vehicles, and review medical statements.
- Your adjuster also verifies details about the insurance policies of the other drivers in the accident.
After they’ve gathered information and completed the investigation, insurance adjusters determine who is at fault in the accident. The adjust determined fault by using the conditions of negligence along with the facts of the accident.
Fault is often assigned in percentages, as we mentioned above. Comparative or contributory negligence assigns fault to more than one driver in an accident. Using the percentage of negligence, your adjuster finalizes a settlement.
When the Settlement Isn’t Satisfactory
If the results of your accident settlement aren’t satisfactory based on your losses, it’s time to consult an Atlanta injury attorney.
While your insurance company should fight for you to receive the best settlement that fits the damage and loss, sometimes they aren’t able to get you everything you need.
An accident attorney can help you file a lawsuit and bring your case to court. Your attorney helps present your case in a way that’s clear to the court.
A judge or jury will hear your case and review the evidence, then make a fault ruling based on the facts.
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A Lawyer Helps Pursue Who is at Fault in a Car Accident
Your accident attorney helps pursue who is at fault in a car accident. A car accident can be overwhelming and traumatic. You don’t have to fight for the right settlement on your own.
Use an accident lawyer with a proven record of thorough investigations and fighting for the clients. You need an attorney with an excellent track record and a passion for what they do.
Car accident cases are just one of our specialties. Contact us if you need an experienced accident attorney in the Atlanta area.