Car and truck wrecks occur in many different ways, but the common thread with almost all of them is negligence. Negligence is when somebody fails to use reasonable care when they had a legal responsibility to do so, causing harm to someone else. Reasonable care is acting as a reasonably prudent person would in the same situation.
As our Atlanta car accident lawyers can explain, car accidents are almost always caused by somebody’s negligence. It is the question of whose negligence that is so often central to car accident lawsuits to determine who should pay for the damages – and how much.
How is Negligence Proven?
The person who is injured and seeking damages bears the proof burden to show that it was more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence caused the crash and resulting injuries.
Elements you must establish to prove this are:
- Defendant owed plaintiff a duty to use reasonable care.
- Defendant failed to use reasonable care, and thus breached their duty.
- That breach of duty caused the accident.
- The accident caused plaintiff’s injuries.
All drivers owe other motorists, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians a duty to use reasonable care while driving. That means obeying all traffic laws and remaining alert at all times.
Who Can Be Held Negligent in a Georgia Auto Accident?
Defendants are those you accuse of wrongdoing. Usually, that’s the other driver involved. But it can involve others too. The most common types of negligence in a Georgia car accident include:
- Negligence by another driver. This is perhaps the most common form of negligence leading to crashes. It could involve not keeping a vehicle in safe, working condition. It could be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It could be driving while fatigued or distracted by a cell phone. It could be speeding or simply not paying attention.
- Negligence by the vehicle owner. It may be surprising to know that one can be held liable for a crash – even if he/she wasn’t controlling the vehicle at the time of the collision or even at the scene. Vehicle owners who allow someone to drive their vehicle when they knew or should have known that person was an incompetent or dangerous driver can be held accountable with a claim of negligent entrustment. In fact, the Georgia Supreme Court recently ruled in a negligent entrustment DUI case that a person who helped cause a drunk driving accident but who was not themselves the drunk driver could still be considered an “active” tortfeasor (as opposed to a passive tortfeasor) – meaning they too could be held liable for uncapped punitive damages. The ruling in Reid v. Morris et al upended decades of prior case law. … Employers too can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees when they’re acting in the course and scope of employment. Examples might include pizza delivery workers, city employees or truck drivers.
- Negligence by the government. In some cases, government entities can be held responsible for their role in causing a crash. Usually, this stems from a failed duty to properly build, mark and maintain roads and highways. Roads that remain in poor condition, construction sites where dangers aren’t clearly marked or malfunctioning street lights or signs can be considered negligence in a car accident case. (Note: If this may have been a factor in your crash, you need to talk to an injury attorney immediately because deadlines and filing requirements for lawsuits against government agencies are much more stringent than for typical car accident cases.)
- Negligence by the car manufacturer. Companies that design and produce vehicles have a responsibility to make sure their products are reasonably safe when they are driven properly and maintained. If this is not the case, you may have a product liability claim on your hands. Successful product liability claims against car manufacturers in crash cases have stemmed from a wide range of vehicle defects, from airbags to ignition switches to brakes.
In some crashes, more than one party was negligent. These cases can get a bit complicated, so it’s important to talk to an attorney before you sign any settlement agreement. Know too that even if YOU were partially to blame doesn’t mean you couldn’t collect at least a portion of damages from other at-fault parties. When it comes to car accidents, Georgia follows the modified comparative negligence rule with a 50 percent bar, per O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. In laymen’s terms, that means you can collect damages from other negligent parties in a crash so long as your portion of the fault is 49 percent or less. If you are found 50 percent or more at fault, you lose the case.
Contributory negligence is a popular defense tactic. To fight it – and advocate for full and fair compensation for your losses – hire an experienced injury lawyer who will help negotiate with insurers, collect key evidence, and file litigation.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.