After any kind of traffic accident in Georgia, if you've been injured and/or incurred significant vehicle damage, you may want to explore your options for holding the at-fault driver financially responsible for your losses.
THE GEORGIA CAR ACCIDENT STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a time limit on a potential plaintiff's right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered and/or the kind of case you want to file.
the two-year deadline for filing most car accident injury lawsuits
the four-year time limit on the filing of most lawsuits for vehicle damage caused by an accident, and
Georgia's "modified comparative fault" rule, which allows for financial recovery only when the claimant was less responsible than the other party (or parties) for causing the car accident.
GEORGIA AUTO INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
Car insurance is certain to play a part in any claim that's made after a car accident. Georgia, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain certain minimum amounts of liability coverage. So, understanding the Georgia auto insurance rules is essential to any potential car accident case.
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE IN GEORGIA CAR ACCIDENT CASES
"Comparative fault" refers to the situation where more than one party is at least partially at fault for an accident. States follow different approaches in this scenario.
In a Georgia personal injury lawsuit, you can recover against any party who was more at-fault than you were, but your damages (your financial recovery) will be reduced by a percentage that corresponds to your share of liability. In legalese, this means Georgia is a "modified comparative negligence" state.
Of course, this rule controls judge or jury awards in civil lawsuits (if you get to that stage). But before you get to that point, a car insurance claims adjuster will negotiate a settlement with an eye on Georgia's comparative fault rules. Keep in mind that because there is not a precise method to apportion fault empirically, the ultimate decision as to fault will depend on your ability to negotiate with an insurance claim adjuster, or to convince a judge or jury.
To see how this rule plays out in real life, we'll take a look at an example. Let's say you're driving a few miles-per-hour over the speed limit when another driver suddenly makes a left turn in front of you. Without enough time to stop, you collide with the other car. The other driver is found to be 80 percent at fault, but since you were speeding, the jury (or adjuster) figures that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident. If you would otherwise be entitled to a $10,000 award or settlement, it would be reduced to $8,000 based on your 20-percent share of fault.
One last note: You will not be able to recover anything at all under Georgia's modified comparative negligence rule if your share of fault for the accident meets or exceeds 50 percent.
Truck accidents have devastating effects. Having a Georgia truck accident lawyer on your side can at least ease the devastation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hit by a truck owned by a Georgia company, or whether you’re hit by a truck belonging to an out-of-state company, you’ve been hit and you have questions.
MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS
In order to keep other drivers safe, tractor-trailer companies are regulated by the federal and state governments. The federal government’s rules are called the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations,” or “FMCSR” for short. The FMCSR apply to motor carriers operating in multiple states. Georgia has adopted essentially the same set of regulations and applied them to Georgia-only companies. Virtually all of the regulations are the same. The differences are mostly in name. For example, if a federal rule is called 49 CFR § 390.4, the Georgia rule is called “DPS 1-390.4.” The Georgia Department of Public Safety is the state agency responsible for enforcement of truck driving laws.
LIGHTWEIGHT COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
Some trucks don’t qualify as a commercial vehicle, but are still bound by many of the same rules. A good Georgia truck accident lawyer knows that these vehicles are called “lightweight commercial vehicles”. O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 explains that if the truck is used by a Georgia business to transport property for compensation; is used to transport passengers for compensation, other than a taxicab; or is a wrecker or tow truck, then the vehicle qualifies as a lightweight commercial vehicle.
FILING A LAWSUIT IN A TRUCK ACCIDENT IS DIFFERENT
In a car accident lawsuit, a personal injury lawyer is legally not allowed to identify the driver’s car insurance even though the driver’s car insurance is paying for the driver’s defense and paying for the driver’s coverage. Truck accidents are different. In a truck accident case, a Georgia truck accident lawyer knows that he can and should identify the driver, the truck company, and the insurance company that insures the trucking company in the title of the lawsuit.
We include the company because the company was responsible for hiring, supervising, training, and/or employing the driver who caused the crash. The trucking company is usually also liable under the legal doctrines of “vicarious liability” and “respondeat superior.” In simplified terms, those doctrines mean that when the driver was an employee of the company and was driving within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the collision, the company is liable for the driver’s actions. See PN Express, Inc. v. Zegel, 304 Ga. App. 672 (2010).
SLIPS & FALLS
Slip and fall accidents are caused by a variety of hazards and obstacles, including poor lighting, uneven flooring and broken handrails.
In some cases, property owners knew about these obstacles and failed to take adequate steps to remove them to help ensure the safety of those who enter their property. This could be considered negligence under Georgia law.
DUTY OF CARE FOR INVITEES
Property owners owe a higher standard of care to invitees than to anyone else who enters their property. Under the Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) Title 51 Chapter 3 Article 1, property owners are liable for damages caused by a failure to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises safe.
This means that property owners must take reasonable steps to inspect the premises and ensure conditions are safe for invitees. However, this does not mean property owners have a legal obligation to continually patrol the premises to look for hazards because that would be unreasonable.
ACTUAL AND CONSTRUCTIVE KNOWLEDGE
The legal duty owed to invitees applies only to hazards that property owners had actual or constructive knowledge about.
Actual knowledge means that the property owner could see, hear, touch or smell the obstacle in question.
Constructive knowledge refers to a hazard that the property owner should have known about.
Constructive knowledge is much more difficult to establish than actual knowledge. One way to do so is to prove that an employee of the owner was in the immediate vicinity of the hazard and could have easily noticed it and taken steps to fix it.
Another way to prove constructive knowledge is to prove the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care when inspecting the premises.
In some cases, violations of ordinances or codes can be used as evidence that a property owner was aware or should have been aware of a hazard.