Who Is Liable In A Georgia Multi-Vehicle Accident?
Determining liability can be complex even in a standard two-vehicle accident. For instance, from your perspective, another car could have completely come out of nowhere, entering your lane and colliding with you head-on, while they could claim to have hit road debris that popped their tire and caused them to lose control of the vehicle. This can take insurance adjusters a while to parse through and apply Georgia’s modified comparative negligence standard, which requires all blame to be allocated. Now imagine how long this process could take with half a dozen cars and trucks involved, all with differing accounts, as well as witness testimony, videos, photographs, and more. In fact, it often takes over a year to reach a decision on liability in massive pile-ups and multi-vehicle collisions. And unfortunately, they are not uncommon at all. Particularly in Georgia, with its abundance of highways and booming trucking industry, there is no lack of highway traffic and complex collisions.
Understanding Modified Comparative Negligence
As mentioned above, Georgia applies the modified comparative negligence standard when assessing liability for all vehicle collisions. What this means is that the fault of each driver will be assessed in making a determination as to liability. In other words, each driver’s actions, and the total circumstances of the accident, will be assessed to determine how much and in what way each driver contributed to causing the overall accident. If a driver is more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover for harm suffered in the accident, as it is understood that they are primarily responsible for their own harm. However, parties less than 50% at fault may sue for damages, which will then be reduced by an amount in proportion to their fault.
For instance, if Drive A failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, and Driver B was driving erratically and ran a stop sign at the same intersection, colliding with Driver A, the insurance adjusters may determine that Driver B was 90% at fault and Drive A was 10% at fault. Driver B would not be able to recover any damages, as they were more than 50% at fault. However, Driver A could sue for damages. If Driver A was awarded $10,000 in damages, they would then receive $9,000 ($10,000 -10% fault).
Applying Modified Comparative Negligence to Multi-Vehicle Collisions
In multi-vehicle collisions, negligence is assigned in the same manner, with the contributions to the overall accident of each driver assessed and allocated accordingly. In most multi-vehicle collisions, there is a primary instigating accident. For instance, a sedan may cut off a semi-truck, causing the truck to slam on its brakes or swerve, and causing other cars who were following too closely behind it to get in a series of rear-end accidents. In these cases, the bulk of the liability will be assigned to the sedan that caused the initial accident. However, fault will also be assigned in lesser amounts to the drivers who did not leave adequate space between them and the car or truck ahead of them.
Talk to an Experienced Traffic Accident Lawyer
If you have been involved in a multi-vehicle collision in Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, or the greater Georgia area, do not try to navigate this complex and frustrating process on your own. Call Hawkins Spizman Trial Attorneys today and schedule a free consultation with our Alpharetta personal injury lawyers.