When you or your loved one suffers an injury, you want to do everything in your power to prove that the at-fault party was negligent. However, often those injured don’t understand the definition of negligence under Georgia law – let alone proving fault.
Many want to better understand how the system works and determine if their case involves negligence. Fortunately, we’ve put together the following explanation, which we call, “Negligence 101.”
Negligence is the most common basis for personal injury lawsuits. It occurs when someone acts carelessly (or negligently). This then results in injury or property damage and destruction.
The Elements of Negligence
A personal injury lawsuit isn’t always straightforward. There are four elements required in order to prove negligence. These include duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
Did the other party owe you a legal obligation? This is the first question that needs to be answered in order to prove whether there was a relationship between the two parties. This could result in the defendant (the other party) owing a “duty of care” to the plaintiff (you).
As an example, the rules of the road dictate that drivers owe one another a duty to keep a safe distance between their cars. In another instance, a property manager must keep their premises free of any hazards.
Breach of duty
A defendant exhibits negligence when they breach the duty that they owe to the plaintiff. In failing to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling their duty, the defendant breaches the duty.
Using the first example, the driver might be texting and driving and fail to maintain a safe distance between their car and your car ahead. In reference to the second example, the property manager might not clean up a spill right away.
For this element, we need to link the other party’s breach of duty to the accident and your resulting injuries. Georgia law recognizes two types of causation:
- Cause in fact: A plaintiff must prove that due to the defendant’s actions, the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Often, we employ the “but for” test – “but for” the defendant’s negligent acts, the plaintiff would not have been injured.
- Proximate cause: The responsibility lies only for those “harms” that the defendant could have foreseen through his or her actions. Anything outside the scope is not the responsibility of the defendant. Such a detail could include an injury that happens in a separate instance to the plaintiff.
Lastly, a plaintiff in a negligence case must prove a “legally” recognized harm, which is shown through economic and non-damages. Examples of damages you might suffer in an accident include:
- Past and anticipated medical bills
- Lost wages, benefits, commissions
- Future lost earning potential
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Wrongful death
While seemingly straightforward, all of these elements are required in order to lay the groundwork for a negligence claim.
Contributory Negligence laws in Georgia
Georgia is a fault state. That is, if you hold any of the blame for the accident, you may still have the option to collect compensation. However, according to O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33, your damages would be reduced based on how much fault you hold.
For instance, if you are found to be 25% to blame for the accident, you would receive 75% of your total compensatory award. Your lawyer can demonstrate that you exhibited little to no negligence. This way, you could obtain the settlement or verdict you need to get your life back on track.
We only have a Limited Amount of Time to Recover Compensation
After we establish the other party’s negligence and calculate your damages, we file a claim with their insurer. We can typically settle your case without going to trial. There are times when we cannot agree on an amount and need to file a lawsuit, though.
Per O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, you usually have two years to file a lawsuit, both personal injury or wrongful death. If a government agency was negligent and caused the accident, the timeline might be shorter. Your lawyer can help you figure out which one applies to your situation.
In any case, complying with this statute of limitations is crucial for your case. So, we recommend contacting our firm as soon as possible. If we try to submit your lawsuit past the deadline, you risk forfeiting your right to compensation.
Connect with Kaine Law today for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation
If you were injured due to negligence, we ask you to contact our office immediately. Do not allow someone else’s action or inaction (leading to your losses) to go unaddressed.
Reach out to us today at (404) 214-2001 to get a free case review with one of our team representatives. Our Atlanta personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency-fee basis, so there are no upfront or hourly charges involved. Instead, they will take their fee at the end of your case should they secure compensation for you.