How Does Fault Work in a Car Accident Case?
After a car accident, the involved parties may be held fully at fault, partially at fault, or not at fault. Anyone who bears fault can be responsible (liable) for the costs in some manner.
Let’s break that down a bit for clarity.
Is Georgia an At-Fault or No-Fault State?
In most personal injury cases, compensation comes from insurance companies, not the pockets of individuals. Fault status dictates how those insurance policies work, and whether injured people file claims with their own insurance carrier or the other drivers’.
Georgia is an at-fault state, as is South Carolina. This means that a person who causes a car accident—usually the at-fault driver—is liable for the costs of the people they injured when the accident happened. The injured parties have the right to sue them for this compensation (which, again, comes from the insurance company a vast majority of the time).
At-fault drivers may also face criminal charges, but that would be a separate case and not handled by your personal injury lawyer.
In a no-fault state, all drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of no-fault insurance that will cover their injuries if they’re involved in an accident. It will depend on whether the at-fault driver has additional liability insurance that the injured party may be able to recover.
What Does Negligence Mean in a Personal Injury Case?
Your personal injury claim will hinge on proving the at-fault party’s (defendant’s) negligence—or in other words, their failure to take reasonable care to prevent another person’s injury or loss.
The following components must be shown to both prove negligence and receive compensation personal injury case:
- The defendant had a duty of care to you: Circumstances dictate duty of care. Drivers certainly have a duty of care to other people on the roadways.
- The defendant breached their duty of care: Being careless quickly leads to neglecting a duty of care.
- That breach caused the accident and injury: Drivers are careless all the time, but it doesn’t always lead to accidents. Further, accidents can happen with no one being negligent. If records show that a driver was distracted at the time of the accident, it’s safe to say their breach caused the accident and injuries.
- Your injuries resulted in loss: Your injuries/damages will dictate the size of the claim you may have against the at-fault driver. Other damages can also add to your claim. This generally means medical bills and other costs.
What Is Comparative Fault?
Comparative fault, also called comparative negligence, is a legal principle that allows more than one party to be held to some percentage of the fault in a car accident. It then uses those percentages to determine how much compensation injured parties can receive.
For example, say you’re in an accident that another driver caused by turning left as you went through an intersection when you had the right of way. Clearly, that driver bears the majority of fault for the car accident (and the broken bones you have because of it).
However, you were also driving 10 miles over the speed limit, contributing to the other driver’s poor judgement. It’s determined that you are 20% at fault for the car accident.
Remember when we said that anyone bearing fault can be liable for the costs somehow? Your 20% share of the fault means you are only eligible for 80% of the compensation you’d get if you were 0% at fault, even though the other driver was the main cause of the accident that injured you.
So, if full compensation for your injuries is $100,000, you can only get $80,000.
Georgia and South Carolina both observe modified comparative negligence. This means there is a limit to how much fault you can bear and still be eligible for compensation:
- Georgia modified comparative negligence: If you are 50% or more at fault, you are not eligible for compensation.
- South Carolina modified comparative negligence: If you are more than 50% at fault, you are not eligible for compensation.
In a state with pure comparative negligence, you would still be eligible for compensation even if you were 99% at fault for a car accident. (Though in this case, you’d only be able to receive 1% of your full claimed damages.)
RELATED: Prove I’m Not at Fault in a Car Accident