On December 4, 2010, an elderly woman, Martha Edins, was attempting to merge from the Airport Loop onto 1-285 in Georgia when she ran into a tractor-trailer that had stopped in the roadway a few minutes earlier, and Ms. Edins was killed in the collision. Edins’ adult children subsequently brought an action against the trucking company and the driver of the truck for the wrongful death of their mother.
A Fulton County jury set the damages at just over $ 4,000,000.00, but 25% of the liability was attributed to Ms. Edins and thereby reducing the families’ recovery to just over $ 3,000,000.00.
In Georgia, when a Plaintiff, in this case Ms. Edins, is held to be at some degree of fault, the court is authorized to reduce the amount of the damages otherwise awarded to the Plaintiff in proportion to her or his own percentage of fault under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Section 51-12-33(a). This is known as the tort doctrine of Comparative Negligence .
Comparative Negligence is a rule in tort of allocating damages to each party when both parties are somewhat at fault. For example, in the Edins’ case, the Jury set the damages at over $4M, but it was determined that Ms. Edins was 25% at fault and, therefore, the damages were reduced by her percentage of fault. It is important to note that in accordance with O.C.G.A. Section 51-12-33(g) that if it is shown that the Plaintiff is 50% or more responsible for the injury or damages claimed, that the Plaintiff shall not be entitled to receive any amount of damages.
The doctrine of Comparative Negligence is in comparison with the common law tort theory of Contributory Negligence whereby a Plaintiff is completely, and totally, barred from any recovery if the Plaintiff is in any way negligent in causing the accident, and this is even if the Defendant’s negligence in causing the accident was more serious. Were a contributory negligence theory applied in the Edin’s case, the Edins’ children would not have received any compensation.
Since the harshness inherent in a total bar to a Plaintiff’s recovery if the Defendant shows that the Plaintiff was only slightly negligent the theory of contributory negligence, or a total bar from recovery, is not looked upon favorably in most jurisdictions including Georgia, and, therefore, a majority of the jurisdictions use the theory of comparative negligence to determine if the Plaintiff’s damages should be reduced by a percentage of the Plaintiff’s fault, but not totally barred unless it is found that the Plaintiff was 50% or more negligent than the Defendant as stated herein above.
At Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law, & Affiliates, we are experts at tractor-trailer accidents, wrongful death claims, and all other accident cases so we understand the potential devastation if a Plaintiff were to be found 50% or more negligent than the Defendant, or if a contributory negligence theory were to be applied in a case, resulting in a total bar from recovery although damages were incurred by the Plaintiff.
Therefore, we encourage you to Contact Us if you or a loved one are involved in any type of accident so that we can defend your right for just compensation in your case. We are here to protect you and make sure that you receive all the compensation that you deserve, and that you are never barred from recovery in your case.