Can You Still Recover if You Were Partially Responsible for Your Injuries?
Very few things in life are black and white, including many personal injury lawsuits. The basis for most personal injury cases is negligence, which requires one person to have breached a duty they owe to another person in such a way as to cause injuries to the other person. But not all defendants are 100% at fault, nor are all plaintiffs totally blameless. In such cases, the law has developed two competing legal theories on how such fault should be apportioned: contributory negligence and comparative negligence. Georgia follows the comparative negligence standard, as our Tifton personal injury lawyers explain.
Contributory Negligence vs. Comparative Negligence
There are two primary legal theories for apportioning fault in situations where the plaintiff in a personal injury suit is partially at fault for their injuries:
- Contributory negligence: Under the contributory negligence standards, fault on the part of the plaintiff is an absolute bar to recovery, with narrow exceptions that vary by state. Only four states and the District of Columbia follow the traditional contributory negligence standard
- Comparative negligence: Under the comparative negligence standard, each party may collect the percent of damages for which they were not at fault. The vast majority of states follow the comparative negligence standard.
Comparative negligence can further be distinguished into pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Under the pure comparative negligence standard, a party may sue to collect damages even if they were 99% at fault. However, that party would only be able to recover the portion of damages for which they were not at fault (i.e., 1% in that scenario). Under the modified comparative negligence standard, a party is barred from recovery if they were 50-51% or more at fault for their injuries (depending upon the state).
Georgia’s Comparative Negligence Law
Georgia follows the modified comparative negligence standard at 50%. Under OCGA § 51-12-33, a plaintiff may recover damages so long as they were 49% or less at fault for their injuries. However, the plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced in proportion to their fault. For example, assume that a jury awards a plaintiff $50,000 in damages in a slip and fall case. However, the jury also finds that the plaintiff was 30% at fault for their injuries. Under Georgia’s comparative negligence law, the plaintiff’s damages award would be reduced to $35,000. If the plaintiff were found to be 55% at fault for their injuries, the plaintiff would receive nothing. Contrast that outcome with the outcome in a pure negligence state, where the plaintiff would still receive $22,500.
Seek Recovery (Even if You Were Partially at Fault) With Help From a Tifton Personal Injury Lawyer
Fault on the part of the plaintiff is not an absolute bar to recovery in Georgia. However, apportioning fault in personal injury cases can be tricky, and you may need an experienced attorney on your side to show that you were less than 50% at fault. For more information, please contact a Tifton personal injury lawyer at the Hudson Injury Firm by calling 229-396-5848 or using our online form.