Determining who’s at fault in an instance involving personal injury is important because it establishes the party that may ultimately be responsible for paying out damages to the injured party or parties. Sometimes, fault can easily be found based on general facts and evidence reviewed by an attorney or even an insurance company. Other times, a more thorough review might be required. Either way, pinpointing fault is critical to determining how to proceed with a potential personal injury claim.
How fault is proven
In order to establish fault, an informed and legally sound liability decision must be found through a review of relevant evidence. This may include reviewing physical evidence, interviewing those involved with the claim, consulting experts, and evaluating police reports, official statements, and documents and records kept by the involved parties. This not only allows fault to be assigned, but also determines what type of injury claim is actually being made.
There are several types of liability claims that can be made in a personal injury case, but most often, a claim of negligence is the basis for personal injury claims. In order to prove the party at fault was negligent, as defined under Georgia law, there must be a “failure to exercise a certain degree of care in order to minimize risk of injury to another person.” Plaintiffs must prove four specific elements to lead to a ruling of negligence:
- Duty – showing that there is a legal duty to provide care in the first place.
- Breach of Duty – showing such duty was not met based on how an average, responsible person would respond in the situation leading to injury.
- Causation – showing that the negligence of one or more parties led to the plaintiff’s injury.
- Damages – showing proof that the negligence of another caused the plaintiff’s injury and results in a monetary loss of some sort to the injured party.
An example of a claim which can show negligence is when a driver fails to obey a traffic law or to drive in a reasonable and safe manner which results in an accident that causes harm to another driver or pedestrian.
While negligence is the most common type of liability, there are other types that might come into play in your particular case.
- Intentional Conduct – when someone singles out another individual and intentionally causes harm to them. Example: bar brawl.
- Negligence per se – failure to follow a law put into place to protect the public such as not driving the speed limit at the time you get into an accident.
- Strict Liability – suffering an injury while involved in a particularly dangerous activity such as interacting with wild animals or skydiving.
The specifics of each case where one is seeking damages for a personal injury will determine which type of fault is appropriate.
Is it ever the injured person’s fault?
It may be natural to think that, if you’re the injured party, fault automatically lies with someone else, but that isn’t always the case. There are certain situations where all or partial fault can be put onto the person who got injured. If this happens, the amount of damages you could be awarded can decrease based on the percentage of fault that’s yours. The two primary instances where the injured individual shares fault are comparison and contributory negligence.
For comparative negligence, it becomes evident that the injured party is partially responsible in some way for the injury. While the injured party still has a case to collect damages from the other party or parties involved, full compensation most likely will not be awarded.
A ruling of contributory negligence usually occurs when the injured party actively disregards warnings and proper safety precautions resulting in the injury. Examples of this type of negligence include situations like diving in water that’s marked as too shallow or crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. Often, in this case, no damages are awarded to the injured party due to the high percentage of fault connected to the injured individual.
What steps to take if you’ve suffered a personal injury
Regardless of who you believe is at fault, should you suffer any type of accident-related injury, contacting a personal injury attorney is the first step to take. With their expert training, a personal injury lawyer will review and assess your case before making a final liability determination.
The professional team at the Patterson Cozzo law firm offer a free, no obligation consultation to help you understand your rights and next steps. Throughout the whole process, you’ll receive the highest level of attention as our lawyers fight for you to receive the best outcome possible, whether that be through a pre-suit settlement of the filing of a lawsuit.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.