If you were injured by the actions or inaction of another person, you can file a negligence claim in order to recover damages.
Negligence is the legal classification for a vast number of personal injury cases. In short, a person may file a negligence claim when he or she is injured due to the actions of another. Common negligence lawsuits include:
In negligence cases, a plaintiff is injured by a hazardous item or circumstance that the defendant could have corrected. Georgia negligence law establishes two specific requirements that must be satisfied in order for financial compensation to be awarded to the plaintiff. These criteria are:
1. A property owner or manager had “actual and constructive knowledge of the hazard.”
2. The plaintiff used “ordinary care” on the property to maintain his or her safety, yet “lacked knowledge of the hazard” due to the behavior or actions of the property owner or manager.
The plaintiff is entitled to damages if the defendant knew of the hazard that caused the injury yet didn’t do enough to fix the problem or properly warn the plaintiff. In turn, the plaintiff must have been acting in a manner that is considered reasonable and responsible by the judge or jury.
Four elements of negligence
In Georgia and across the US, the four elements of negligence generally remain the same. Each element must be demonstrated by the plaintiff’s attorney for a negligence claim to be established. These elements are:
In negligence cases, “duty” refers to a relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. The parties don’t have to know each other, but it’s common that they do. Typical relationships include: landowner and visitor, doctor and patient, contractor and client, etc.
When the parties lack an apparent relationship, an expected standard of care can still applied. For instance, drivers owe a duty to every other vehicle on the road. Similarly, members of a crowd or audience must act reasonably in regards to the other people.
As you can probably tell, it’s not difficult to satisfy the duty element of a negligence lawsuit. If the duty isn’t readily apparent, there’s a good chance that the case will be considered a frivolous lawsuit.
2. Breach of Duty
“Breach of duty” refers to a wrongdoing committed by the defendant. One of the most common negligence claims involves a failure to act. These claims include everything from a shop owner failing to tend to a spill to a dog owner walking without a muzzle on her aggressive pet.
A defendant acting inappropriately is also grounds for a negligence lawsuit. People who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example, are breaching a duty they have to other motorists to drive responsibly. Another example would be a caregiver allowing a child to play with a known dangerous toy.
Causation is perhaps the easiest element to explain but is often the hardest to prove to a judge or jury. Your personal injury attorney must demonstrate that the actions of the defendant caused the accident to occur.
Causation is where fault is taken into account. Fortunately, Georgia allows plaintiffs to still recover if they are partially to blame for the accident.
Injury is another element of negligence that is typically not hard to establish. Plaintiffs don’t generally initiate a lawsuit unless some form of harm has been done to them. Negligence claims typically involve accident survivors or families who are filing on behalf of a deceased loved one. Thus, physical and emotional harm has clearly occurred. Property damage or financial harm, however, may also be enough to demonstrate a proper cause of action.
Once the above elements are demonstrated in a manner that favors the plaintiff, he or she will win the lawsuit and receive financial compensation.
Understanding fault in Georgia
In many cases, an accident survivor hesitates to pursue legal action out of fear that his or her behavior was partly to blame. By looking at the Georgia statute on negligence, O.C.G.A. 51-11-7, you may mistakenly assume that you don’t have grounds for a lawsuit if you could have avoided your accident. You may be too ashamed to file a complaint. Instead, find comfort in the fact that Georgia is a modified comparative fault state.
Georgia holds that a person may recover damages in a lawsuit so long as he or she was less than 50% to blame for whatever incident resulted in injury. For example, a judge or jury panel might decide if texting while walking puts you at fault for your fall in a grocery store and bars your recovery.
Fault also plays a role in how your damages are calculated. Your total compensation will be reduced by your percentage at fault. Using the above example, if your damages total $60,000, but you were found to be 25% at fault for texting in the store, you are only eligible to recover $45,000.
Statute of limitations for negligence claims
As with all civil lawsuits, the ability to recover damages in a personal injury case is dependent on the timely filing of a plaintiff’s complaint. Below are some of Georgia’s statutes of limitations:
Georgia Statutes of Limitation
|Type of Case||Time Limit to File Suit||Georgia Statute|
|Personal injury||2 years||OCGA §9-3-33|
|Injury to property||4 years||OCGA §9-3-32|
|Libel and slander||1 year||OCGA §9-3-33|
|Professional malpractice||2 years, max. of 5 from act||OCGA §9-3-71|
|Trespass||4 years||OCGA §9-3-30|
|Written contracts||6 years||OCGA §9-3-24|
|Oral contracts||4 years||OCGA §9-3-26|
|Collection of debt on account||4 years||OCGA §9-3-25|
|Judgments||5 years foreign judgment||OCGA §9-3-20|
If a plaintiff tries to initiate a lawsuit after the time limit has passed, the potential for recovery will be lost and the case will be dismissed.
Georgia damage caps
Throughout the country, states frequently limit the total amount accident survivors can be awarded with regards to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages refers to compensation for damages that don’t have a concrete value. Pain and suffering damages, for example, are one category of non-economic damages. In contrast, medical bills and the cost to repair a car after an accident are fully apparent costs and are considered economic damages.
As of 2005, damage caps are no longer in place for most personal injury lawsuits in Georgia. Thus, a plaintiffs is generally free to ask for all relevant costs associated with the emotional and physical harm sustained in the accident.
Georgia does, however, limit punitive damages and medical malpractice damages, but your personal injury lawyer will do the best he or she can to earn you and your loved ones the most compensation possible.
If you believe you have a personal injury claim and are ready to begin the complaint process, browse top Georgia lawyers in the Enjuris directory.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.