When it comes to car accidents, most states are either “at-fault” or “no-fault.” Georgia is an “at fault” state that determines liability through a system called “modified comparative negligence.” What is this comparative fault law, and what does it mean for your case? Allow us to explain.
Modified Comparative Negligence Explained
After a car crash, insurance companies examine all the evidence and assign percentages of fault to every driver involved. The total amount of fault between drivers must always reach 100%, which means that one party is always held responsible (at-fault), and the other part is always considered not liable.
The person found at least 50% responsible is considered at fault. An “at-fault driver” cannot claim any damages after an accident. This leaves many Georgia drivers faced with recovering from a crash on their own, unable to make any claim due to the insurance company’s assessment. Keep in mind that every crash must have an at-fault driver whose insurance will cover the damages.
On the other hand, a driver who is less than 50% responsible can receive a settlement, but with very important caveats. Under modified comparative negligence, that driver’s compensation is garnished in proportion to their fault. For example, if a driver is rewarded a $100,000 settlement, but the insurance companies determined they were 25% at fault, they would only receive $75,000.
Unfortunately, the percentages assigned are often arbitrary, with little reasoning or explanation behind the numbers. Just a few percentage points off can have an enormous impact on a victim’s ability to pursue justice. That’s why it’s crucial anyone involved in an accident hires an experienced attorney who can determine their actual liability in the accident. An attorney can also provide essential advice that will help avoid falling into the common pitfalls and traps of comparative fault negotiations.
The Traps of Modified Comparative Negligence
Georgia drivers involved in an accident should be very careful of what they say and whom they talk to after a car accident. Comparative fault assignment can feel extremely subjective, and a single misspoken sentence could turn a clear case of liability into a drawn-out legal argument.
First, drivers should be careful to never say sorry after an accident. This can be extremely difficult, especially when your adrenaline is pumping and you’re unsure what happened. Try to remain calm and watch what you say, even if you suspect the accident was your fault.
If the other driver tells their insurance company or the responding police officer that you apologized, it could be taken as an admission of guilt, even if forensic evidence and the location of the damage would otherwise demonstrate that you were not responsible.
Second, never post about an accident on social media. Posting anything about your accident on social media opens your account to a subpoena from the insurance company or the other driver’s attorney. Once your account becomes evidence, investigators can use anything you said about the accident (even in comments or private messages) against you.
Third and most important, never agree to a recorded statement without your attorney present. Your insurance company may request a recorded statement to tell your side of the story. What they don’t tell you is that you need to choose your words very, very carefully. If you say something like “I didn’t even see them coming,” the insurance company might take that to mean that you weren’t paying attention at the time of the accident, and would assign you a higher percentage of fault.
Hire The Mabrey Firm
The best way to avoid these pitfalls is to speak to an experienced auto injury attorney immediately after your accident. The sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner you can receive the coaching you need to avoid these common insurance pitfalls.
An attorney can handle all the paperwork and negotiations, ensuring you get the fairest possible settlement to help you through your time of need.
If you were involved in a serious car accident, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced Atlanta auto injury attorney from The Mabrey Firm to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (404) 814-5098.