Civil juries in Georgia and around the country award damages when plaintiffs are able to establish that they were harmed because the defendant failed to meet a duty of care, but what about situations where the plaintiff also acted negligently? The contributory negligence laws in a few jurisdictions would prevent an injured person from recovering any damages in this situation, but Georgia, like most states, follows the comparative negligence doctrine.
This means that motor vehicle accident victims in the Peach State who acted negligently cans still file lawsuits and recover damages, but the amount they are awarded will be reduced according to their degree of fault. Georgia has what is known as a modified comparative negligence rule, which means damages can be recovered in a civil lawsuit as long as the plaintiff was not more than 49% responsible for causing the accident that injured them. Defendants in car accident cases could raise comparative negligence defenses when accident victims were speeding, not paying attention or driving poorly maintained vehicles.
The seat belt defense
The laws in virtually every state require passenger vehicle occupants to fasten their safety belts, so it would stand to reason that an unrestrained accident victim would be awarded reduced damages in states with a comparative negligence rule. However, that is not how things work in Georgia. That is because the Georgia seat belt law specifically states that failing to wear a seat belt cannot be used as evidence of negligence.
Preparing for comparative negligence arguments
If you are injured in a traffic accident and the facts suggest that you were partially to blame, an experienced personal injury attorney may anticipate and prepare for a defense based on comparative negligence. An attorney could consult with experts to determine what kind of impact your actions had and how they affected your injuries. This could help to ensure that the damages you are awarded are not reduced more than necessary.