Establishing Fault in a Georgia Car Crash Lawsuit
While many people involved in car accidents have a gut instinct about who is at-fault, this type of intuitive feel is not evidence and will not help you prove that a careless driver is responsible for causing your injuries in a Georgia car crash.
There are a variety or strategies that are commonly used for proving liability for a Georgia car crash. Since 1984 our experienced Georgia car crash lawyers have handled thousands of motor vehicle accident cases throughout Georgia involving all types of vehicles. Proving fault in a Georgia car crash can involve intensive investigation, police report analysis, and legal analysis of the facts and evidence under exisiting statutes and caselaw.
Clear Liability Claims
While insurance companies rarely pay the value of our clients' claims without fighting to reduce the amount of the damages, there are certain factual patterns where fault is more easily established. It is important to keep in mind that there are often complexities that will make these general rules of thumb inapplicable in specific situations, but a driver will frequently be found at-fault in the following situations (however, the insurance company may argue otherwise):
- Rear-End Collision: If another driver sticks you from behind, the other driver will usually be determined to be at-fault. A driver generally is required to allow enough following distance so that the driver can avoid collisions if traffic is stopped. While there are circumstances that can result in liability on the part of the driver who is rear-ended, they are fairly narrow exceptions like having brake lights that a driver knowingly fails to repair. Having said this, sometimes the driver of the second vehicle claims that the driver of the front car backed into him. The location and extent of damage to the vehicles provides evidence of how the accident occurred, as can skid marks and witnesses to name a few. The damage to the vehicles will usually be on the front end of one vehicle and rear end of the other vehicle.
- Left Turn Accidents: A driver who turns left in front of a vehicle that is proceeding straight at an intersection will usually be the driver considered to be at-fault in a Georgia car crash. Because vehicles turning left are required to yield to vehicles proceeding straight through an intersection, the driver making a left turn is usually liable. It is important to work with an experienced Georgia car crash lawyer because the insurance company will often look to invoke a possible exception to this general rule by asserting that you were speeding or ran a red light. Like with rear-end collisions, the location of the vehicle damage typically provides evidence of a left turn accident, and the extent of the damage can be important as well. The damage will be on the front end of the turning vehicle and right side of the other vehicle.
Violation of Traffic Laws
If a driver violates a Georgia traffic safety law and is issued a traffic citation, this violation may serve as a basis for imposing liability if it causes a car accident. The Georgia “Uniform Rules of the Road” are statutory traffic laws that require certain safe driving practices that apply to drivers of cars, pickup trucks and SUVs that share Georgia roadways. The Georgia Rules of the Road cover a wide range of driving practices including:
- Following at a safe distance
- Complying with traffic signs that direct a driver to stop or yield
- Obeying the speed limit
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Rules governing right of way when turning at intersections
- Compliance with traffic signals
A violation of the Georgia Rules of the Road can be the basis for the court applying the legal doctrine of "negligence per se" to impose liability, as long as you can prove the violation. The legal doctrine of negligence per se permits a court to find that a party has been negligent as a matter of law for unexcused violation of a safety statute. The appellate courts of Georgia have ruled that violation of the Georgia Uniform Rules of the Road constitute the basis for applying the doctrine of negligence per se. Effectively, these statutory rules establish the reasonable standard of care that must be exercised by Georgia drivers to avoid car accidents.
While the negligence per se doctrine can be used to establish fault, a violation of the Georgia Uniform Rules of the Road does not necessarily mean the other driver will be liable for your Georgia car crash. The violations must still be shown to have caused the car collision. In other words, the statutory violation establishes negligent conduct but not that the conduct caused the auto collision. "Causation" is one of the other elements that must be proven.
Law Enforcement Accident Report
Anytime a Georgia auto collision results in someone being injured, the police must be summoned to the scene of the accident. The law enforcement officer will conduct an investigation and prepare an accident report. It is very important to provide the officer with details that you believe support the other driver being at-fault. You should gather and preserve evidence and obtain contact information for any witnesses.
The police officer often will provide a conclusion regarding fault for the car crash. The officer may even issue citations to both drivers and conclude that both drivers shared responsibility. It is important to note that the fact that you were issued a traffic sitation is not a determination of civil liablity for damages! While a police report is not evidence, the police officer will usually testify in a civil lawsuit consistent with the conclusions and factual findings in the police report. Although police officers are dedicated and professional, they sometimes make mistakes, including reaching faulty conclusions or missing key evidence. No matter what the police report says regarding your accident, a vehicle occupant who is injured in a car crash in Georgia should always have an experienced Georgia car crash attorney review the police report and other evidence to provide an independent evaluation of fault.
Our Atlanta car crash lawyers are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.