What is Georgia law with regard to comparative fault?

The old common-law doctrine of contributory negligence, which used to hold that if a plaintiff was in any way negligent he was barred from recovery, has been superseded in virtually every state including Georgia. Most states today use some form of comparative fault (also referred to as comparative negligence) when apportioning between the plaintiff and the defendant or defendants their respective share of blame for the occurrence of the event that led to the plaintiff's injuries.

In Georgia, the general rule of comparative fault is that if the jury finds that the plaintiff is 50 percent or more at fault this has the same effect as the old contributory negligence rule: the plaintiff is barred from any recovery. As long as the plaintiff is less than 50 percent at fault, then the plaintiff's award is reduced by the percentage of his or her negligence. Thus, for example, if in a car accident case the plaintiff sues the defendant and wins a $100,000 damages award but the jury finds that the plaintiff was 35 percent at fault for his injury, then the damages award will be reduced to $65,000.

The Georgia statute governing comparative fault also places responsibility on the plaintiff to avoid unnecessarily placing himself at risk of harm. If the plaintiff could have avoided the harm caused by the defendant's negligence through the exercise of ordinary care, then just as in contributory negligence he will be completely barred from any recovery. There is also in Georgia a similar doctrine known as plaintiff’s assumption of the risk, which also acts as a bar to recovery if the plaintiff voluntarily chooses a course of action knowing of its danger and is injured as a result.

In any personal injury lawsuit, you can anticipate that the defendant or defendants will attempt to raise comparative fault or assumption of the risk as defenses against your claim. While these defenses will not automatically serve to bar your claim or reduce your award, understanding how they work and how to argue against them is something that your attorney will need to take into account during the preparation of your case for settlement or litigation.

 

 

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