Car crashes are complicated, especially in Georgia. Our state determines who was responsible for an accident (and who can recover damages from it) based on a complex system called “modified comparative negligence.” But what exactly is this system, and how can you avoid falling into some of its most common traps? Let’s find out.
What is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Georgia is an at-fault state, meaning someone is deemed “at fault” for causing the crash. Insurance companies determine who was responsible for the crash by gathering up as much evidence as they can and then assigning a percentage of fault to everyone involved, adding up to a total of 100%.
If you hold 50% or more of the fault, you cannot claim damages in the crash. If you hold less than 50% of the fault, you may claim damages, but with one big caveat. Even if you’re not at fault, the percentage of fault you’re assigned is garnished from your insurance settlement.
The insurance company offers $100,000 for your car crash where you had 0% fault. You collect the entire $100,000.
In another crash, the insurance company offers $100,000, but you were found 30% at fault. That means you only collect $70,000.
Here’s the problem: Assigning fault isn’t an exact science, but even a few percentage points of difference can have a huge impact on your recovery. This is especially frightening because the insurance company can reassign fault based on poorly worded sentences or even social media posts. How is the insurance company to say whether you were 23% responsible or 26% responsible when they didn’t witness the crash?
With so much on the line, it’s critical that you’re fully prepared before contacting the insurance company. That’s why many people hurt in a car crash turn to an experienced car accident attorney. Hiring an attorney tells the insurance company that you’re serious and ready to fight.
An attorney on your side does three things: First, they’ll handle the paperwork and calls on your behalf. Second, people who hire an attorney typically receive a much larger settlement than those who represent themselves. Third, and perhaps most important, an attorney can help you avoid the most common mistakes that could lead to reassigned fault.
Tips for Avoiding Fault Redistribution
Assigned fault if flexible. If you say the wrong thing to the insurance company, they could assign you a higher degree of fault, making it much harder to recover. All this makes Georgia’s comparative negligence rules feel very subjective, which is why it’s important to protect yourself however you can.
Immediately after the crash, be very careful what you say to the other driver and police. If you got out of the car and you said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you,” the other driver may report that to their insurance company, who might take your words to be an omission of responsibility, even if you didn’t cause the crash.
Similarly, while reporting the crash to your insurance company, they might state that your call is being recorded or ask if you’d like to make a statement about the crash. If you hear these phrases, be especially cautious about your wording. Saying something like “I didn’t have time to turn” could be misconstrued to imply that you weren’t paying attention, resulting in more assigned fault.
When reporting the accident to the insurance company, simply tell them you’ve been in a crash and provide the other driver’s insurance information. Saying anything else, even commenting on how you’re feeling, could potentially change your assigned fault or result in a lower settlement.
Remember that insurance adjusters are trained negotiators. They will try to get information out of you, even if you don’t understand their processes. Once you’ve reported the crash, it’s wise to hire an attorney and let them do all the talking on your behalf. It just might save you from fault redistribution.
Finally, remember to stay off social media until your case is settled. Do not post pictures of your vehicle’s damages or your injuries. Do not comment on how you’re feeling. Any post about your car crash could open your account to an investigation where the insurance company will look through all of your public posts and private messages trying to find anything that might shift that assigned fault even a few percentage points.
If you or someone you love suffered severe injuries in a car crash crash, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Riverdale car accident attorney from Law Offices of Falanga & Chalker to evaluate your case, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (470) 450-1164.