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How Does Comparative Fault Affect Personal Injury Claims?

When a person has sustained serious personal injuries in an accident, it may be possible to seek multiple forms of compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. Yet in some personal injury cases, the issue of comparative fault, which is also sometimes known as comparative negligence, may arise. What is comparative fault, and how can it impact your personal injury lawsuit? Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys can tell you more about Georgia’s comparative fault law and how it could come into play when you file a lawsuit against a negligent party who caused your injuries.

What is Comparative Fault?

To understand how comparative fault could affect your personal injury case, it is important to understand first how comparative fault works. Comparative fault, or comparative negligence, is an affirmative defense that the defendant may raise in order to reduce his or her liability. When a defendant raises the defense of comparative fault, that defendant is saying that the plaintiff also bears some responsibility for the accident that resulted in injuries, or for the severity of the injuries.

Different states have their own comparative fault or comparative negligence laws, and we will explain more about how Georgia’s works in relation to other states. Some states are known as “pure comparative fault states,” which means that a plaintiff can recover damages even if the plaintiff is up to 99 percent at fault, but the plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by his or her portion of fault. On the flip side, a small number of states are known as “pure contributory negligence” states, in which a plaintiff will be entirely barred from recovery if that plaintiff is even one 1 percent at fault.

Georgia’s law falls in the middle, and it is known as a “modified comparative fault” law. In Georgia, as long as a plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault, the plaintiff can still recover damages, but the award will be reduced by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault. Once a plaintiff is 50 percent or more at fault, however, that plaintiff will be barred from recovery.

Comparative Fault in Atlanta in Practice

How does the law work in practice? If the defendant can successfully show that a plaintiff is partially to blame for a car accident, bicycle accident, construction accident, slip and fall, or another type of claim, then one of the following will occur:

  • Plaintiff will be barred from recovery if the plaintiff is 50 percent or more at fault; or
  • Plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by that plaintiff’s percentage of fault if the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault.

When a defendant raises the defense of comparative fault, it will not necessarily affect the plaintiff’s damages award. To be clear, the defendant will need to prove that the plaintiff is also at fault, and the plaintiff will have an opportunity to show that she or he is not actually at fault and should not have a damages award affected.

Contact a Georgia Personal Injury Attorney

Do you have questions about seeking damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit? One of our experienced Georgia personal injury attorneys can help. Contact Ponton Law to learn more.