What is Comparative Fault?

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Tom Giannotti talks about a legal doctrine called comparative fault. Find out more here…

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► Hi, I’m Tom Giannotti, attorney from Butler Kahn. Today I want to talk about a legal doctrine called comparative fault and what it means for practical purposes here in the state of Georgia and elsewhere. But we’re in Georgia, we’re Georgia lawyers. We follow the comparative fault rule that says if a plaintiff is 50% or more at fault, then he or she cannot recover. And if there’s some percentage at fault that a jury determines the plaintiff to be, that is obviously greater than zero but less than 50, then they can still recover. However, the plaintiff will have his or her recovery reduced according to whatever percentage the jury decides. So for example, if a jury awards a plaintiff $100,000, but the jury determines that the plaintiff was 20% at fault for causing the accident, well, then their recovery ultimately will only be $80,000 because of this rule.
► Other states follow different rules. I won’t go through all of the other states. But just to take a couple examples that are illustrative, North Carolina has a really strict rule that says that if a plaintiff is even 1% at fault, a jury says you’re 1% at fault for this, the jury cannot award that person anything. They get $0. That is a much harsher take on this rule. Other states take basically the opposite approach that says, “Well, you can recover even if you’re up to 99% at fault, but you still have your recovery reduced proportionally.” So you could have that $100,000 judgment, you could be 99% at fault in another state and still get $1,000, right? But in North Carolina, you would get zero, even if you’re 1% at fault. And in Georgia, as long as you’re less than 50% at fault, you could still recover, but again, have your recovery reduced proportionally to the percentage of fault.
► Other states follow a similar rule to Georgia, but the number is 51%. So even if the plaintiff is 50%, then they just get their recovery cut in half, basically. But again, in Georgia, the rule is that if a person, a plaintiff, is 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover anything. If they are less than 50% at fault, they can still recover, but the recovery is reduced proportionally due to the percentage of fault. Hopefully this has been helpful and informative, and thank you for watching.

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