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Is Georgia an At-Fault State?


shrugWe know that most people do not spend time thinking about what they will do if they get into a vehicle accident.

Getting into a crash is scary, and the aftermath is confusing. One of the first things you think about if there are damages or injuries is who is going to be on the line to cover the expenses. To answer that, we need to answer the question:

Is Georgia a no-fault state?

Georgia is an at-fault state. When a vehicle crash happens, the responding officer is almost always going to assign fault to one or both of the parties involved through a citation.

No, Georgia is not a no-fault state. Georgia is an at-fault state. Today, we want to look into what that means and what the implications are for you in the event of a vehicle crash.

Is Georgia A No-Fault Accident State?

The short answer to this question is no. Georgia is among many states who use the “at-fault” doctrine. This simply means that fault must be determined in every accident. When it comes to injury accidents in Georgia, the at-fault party is liable for damages and reparations. There is a lot more to it though as fault can be assigned to both parties. Butler Kahn has come up with an easy way to understand the “at-fault” doctrine.

Georgia Is A Comparative Fault Statue

Georgia’s personal injury laws allow for the other party (defendant) to file a counterclaim. Their lawyers and insurance company will insist that you (the plaintiff) is the one at fault. This holds true even in drunk-driving cases.

If the defense is successful, they may prove that both parties have some fault in the accident. The damages awarded to the plaintiff are then reduced or even eliminated. The amount received is based on the percentage of fault attributed to each party. As the plaintiff, if you are 20 percent responsible for the accident, your award decreases by that same 20 percent. (A $10,000 award would be reduced to $8,000.)

As the plaintiff, this can be tricky. If for some reason you are found to be 50 percent or more responsible, you will collect no money. It has nothing to do with whether the other driver was drunk or negligent. The plaintiff must have a fault of 49 percent or less responsibility or there will be no monetary award.

Georgia traffic accident statistics

Traffic accidents are going to happen. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, we know there were nearly 400,000 vehicle crashes during the last full reporting year. Out of those crashes, there were:

  •  1,430 fatalities
  •  19,405 serious injuries

It is important to understand that damages and injuries can result in major expenses for crash injury victims and their families.

What is the difference between no-fault and at-fault?

No-fault means that drivers in vehicle crashes have insurance to cover their own injuries or damages. Their insurance would not be required to pay out to another person in a crash, regardless of who is at fault.

Like most other states in the US, Georgia is an at-fault state. When a vehicle crash happens, the responding officer is almost always going to assign fault to one or both of the parties involved through a citation. Please understand that Georgia law allows for there to be percentages of fault assigned in a traffic crash through what is called proportional comparative fault. This is important because there are times when both parties involved did something wrong. There could be a variety of scenarios:

  • One driver is completely at fault
  • Both drivers are equally responsible
  • One driver is 80% at fault while the other is 20% at fault (or various combinations of percentages)

Insurance implications of Georgia being an at-fault state

In Georgia’s at-fault state, you can recover compensation for damages or injuries if the other person was mostly at fault. This will require you or your attorney filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Keep in mind that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will only pay up to the limits of their policy coverage. In Georgia, this could be as low as $25,000.

What if your expenses are for damages or injuries are higher than that?

The at-fault driver may have an additional liability insurance policy that could kick in, but that is unlikely. If the at-fault driver’s vehicle is a commercial vehicle, then that company will likely have additional insurance coverage.

In most cases, you will be looking at using what is called underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist (UM) insurance from your own policy or from the policy of someone who lives with you and is related to you.

Insurance IS Required in Georgia

At-fault states such as Georgia require drivers to carry insurance. This is to ensure they are protected in the case of an accident. It allows for coverage of medical treatments and vehicle repair or replacement.

There are three typical ways of obtaining reparation and reimbursement in Georgia:

  • Filing a claim with your own insurance company who can then go after the other party’s insurance.
  • Directly filing the claim with the at-fault party’s insurance.
  • Filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.

Protect Yourself

When you or a loved one is in an accident in the state of Georgia, you need to surround yourself with the best team available. You may feel confident that your insurance company is on your side. They are — up to a point. Don’t forget that they are a business out to make money. If they can get away with paying you the smallest amount possible, they will. They are in the business to protect themselves first with you coming in a distant second.

This is when you need to bring in a skilled personal injury attorney like the ones at Butler Kahn. You need to have a strong, well-presented case in order to win an appropriate judgment. It is not uncommon for your case to never reach a jury. Fault is often determined by court officials and in some cases, insurance adjusters. An experienced lawyer makes sure that all your concerns are addressed. They will work to get you a fair judgment and everything you’re entitled to by law. Just a small example of what your legal team will do for you includes:

  • Collecting and preserving any evidence from the accident.
  • Interviewing and talking to witnesses and involved parties.
  • Interpreting and applying Georgia laws and regulations to the case.
  • Negotiating with the insurance companies on your behalf.
  • Preparing any necessary documents for court and filings.

The Clock Is Ticking

From the moment you or your family member is involved in an accident, the timer is counting down. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, there is a 2-year window for you to file your case. If you miss the deadline, you will be unable to file a claim and seek damages even if you suffered severe injury or loss.

What you can do after a Georgia vehicle accident

Just because we know how insurance is supposed to work does not mean it will be easy to secure the compensation you need. Even if the other driver is at fault in your vehicle accident, you may need to secure assistance from an Atlanta Car accident attorney.

Your attorney will work to investigate the incident by examining accident reports, talking to witnesses, and gathering evidence. Not only is this important for insurance and compensation purposes, but your attorney wants to make sure that you were not improperly assigned more fault in the incident than you should have been. Your attorney will not let you get taken advantage of by the insurance companies or other parties.

Picture of Matt Kahn
Matt Kahn is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer and a partner at the law firm Butler Kahn. Matt has dedicated his career to fighting for individuals and families who had been harmed by the negligence of others. At Butler Kahn, he has had the honor of helping families who have lost children in motor vehicle accidents and people who were critically injured. He helped a family secure a $45 million settlement to provide lifetime care for their son, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. Matt is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star and by Best Lawyers as One to Watch. He has received an Avvo 10.0 Top Attorney rating. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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