Defendants might present various arguments or claims to try and escape liability for their actions. One common allegation from defendants is that of contributory negligence.
An allegation of contributory negligence means the defendant is arguing that the plaintiff somehow caused their own injuries. In Georgia, your damages award may be reduced in accordance with your supposed share of the blame. You might be barred from recovering any damages or compensation if you are believed to be more than 50% at fault. Courts may consider various factors surrounding allegations of contributory negligence, including supposed failures to take reasonable precautions or any actions that might have exacerbated injuries. Claims of contributory negligence often come up in cases like car accidents, slip and falls, or other cases where the plaintiff’s behavior might be more easily called into question. To help protect yourself from such claims, you need strong evidence of the defendant’s negligence and thorough records of your own actions.
Our Georgia personal injury attorneys can help you plan for potential claims of contributory negligence when you call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357 and schedule a free case review.
Georgia’s Law on Contributory Negligence
As mentioned before, each state has its own set of rules and laws dealing with contributory negligence. In Georgia, the law pertaining to contributory negligence can be found under O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. Generally, if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent, they may still be permitted to recover damages and compensation up to a certain point.
Contributory negligence is often measured as a percentage of overall liability. For example, suppose a plaintiff is injured in a car accident, and the defendant claims their injuries were partially due to the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt. The court might determine that the plaintiff is 30% at fault for their own injuries.
In Georgia, if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent, their damages are reduced by their share of the overall liability. In the above example, the plaintiff’s damages would be reduced by 30%. On top of that, Georgia law bars plaintiffs from recovering any compensation if they are more than 50% responsible for their injuries.
Factors Surrounding Contributory Negligence Claims in Georgia
Allegations of contributory negligence alone are not enough to sink your case. The defendant must offer some evidence showing how you were contributorily negligent. On top of that, the court must believe and accept this evidence, which is not guaranteed. Courts may consider various factors when weighing contributory negligence claims.
The court will consider any alleged failure of the plaintiff to take reasonable precautions. For example, in the example discussed earlier, the hypothetical plaintiff was injured partly because they failed to wear a seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt is not only a reasonable precaution to take when inside a vehicle but it is required by law.
Even if the defendant can show you did something negligent, they must also show that your actions directly led to your injuries. It is entirely possible that your supposed failures to take precautions did not cause or contribute to your injuries.
The court will also think about whether your injuries were a reasonably foreseeable result of your actions. Being injured because you neglected to wear a seatbelt is reasonably foreseeable. Other injuries might not be foreseeable at all.
For example, suppose you were hurt when you slipped on a wet floor. The defendant might claim you ran across the floor, and that is why you slipped. However, our Georgia personal injury lawyers might show the court that you were not running or that there was no sign to warn you of the wet floor. If the injuries are unforeseeable, your actions might not be considered contributorily negligent.
Examples of Contributory Negligence in Georgia
Contributory negligence comes up in many cases involving accidents. Accidents can be easy to blame on victims, especially when victims have trouble gathering strong evidence to support their claims. Plaintiffs often have to deal with contributory negligence accusations in car accident cases.
Car accidents often stem from common traffic violations, and it is not unusual for both parties to be partly at fault. Defendants sometimes use this to their advantage, even when the plaintiff did nothing wrong. You might be accused of speeding, failing to signal, or driving recklessly, which might be hard to disprove depending on the evidence available.
Another common example involves slip and fall cases. People slip and fall on wet floors, uneven stairs, and slippery walkways all the time. Unfortunately, the hazardous conditions are not always visibly apparent, although defendants might argue otherwise. Defendants might also argue that you were walking or running recklessly, which is the real reason you slipped.
How to Challenge Allegations of Contributory Negligence in Georgia
Fighting claims of contributory negligence comes down to evidence. First, the defendant must have enough evidence to back up their claims of contributory negligence. If they do not, your strategy might be to highlight the insufficient evidence and convince the court to dismiss the contributory negligence arguments.
Second, you must have your own evidence proving the defendant’s negligent behavior. Sometimes, the evidence against the defendant is so overwhelming that any contributory negligence claims simply do not stick. In other cases, you might need additional evidence showing what your behavior was like when the accident occurred.
In a car accident case, you might present your own dash cam footage showing you were driving with reasonable safety when the defendant caused the accident. Alternatively, you might have a witness who can testify that you did not behave negligently when the accident occurred. Talk to a lawyer about how to defend yourself against accusations of contributory negligence.
Contact Our Georgia Personal Injury Attorneys
Call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357 and schedule a free case evaluation with our Atlanta personal injury attorneys and we can help you plan for potential claims of contributory negligence.