Understanding Liability in Georgia Personal Injury Cases

When a person is injured through no fault of their own, Georgia State Law and Federal Law provide that there should be a remedy against the at-fault party. One of the more confusing things for clients to understand is that in the eyes of the law, determining who is responsible is not always a slam dunk.

In order to recover money damages to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages and suffering, there are three hurdles that must be cleared.

Duty
First you must identify the duty that the wrongdoer owed to you. It may be a public duty like the duty of ordinary reasonable care that we all owe to each other when driving, or it may be laid out by State Law or City Codes. We recently handled a case where a three year old sustained a hip fracture when he was run over by a man in a jacked up pick up truck with limo tinted windows in Riverdale, Georgia. The defendant argued that the child walked into his path and that there was nothing he could do. Our firmI had the lift kit and the windows tested and determined that he was in violation of State Law in both categories. So in that example, the duty is the duty not to blackout tint your windows and not to get a lift kit more than 2 inches over factory settings.

Breach
Once you have established the duty, you then have to establish that the wrongdoer breached the duty to you. The most common example is a rear end collision where the following driving carelessly follows you too closely and collides with you. Using the example of the pick up truck above, the breach was the driver’s decision to drive the vehicle with an illegal tint and an illegal lift kit.

Causation
Even if you can establish that there is a duty and that the wrongdoer breached it, these actions must have caused the injury in order for the law to provide a remedy. For example, when I was working for as a lawyer for Liberty Mutual Insurance, I defended a tractor trailer company where the driver was parked too far from the curb in an industrial area and a lady was driving home from work and plowed into his parked truck in Conyers, Georgia due to the sun being in her eyes. We learned that she was on her cell phone, driving into the sun, speeding and did not wear sunglasses or deploy the sun visor. She was literally driving blind. In that instance where I was defending the trucking company, we showed that even if the truck had been six inches more to the right, as required under the law, the catastrophic impact still would have occurred and she still would have died. The breach of duties by the trucker were not the proximate cause of the death of the plaintiff and there was no recovery.

In short, the wrongdoing must be the proximate cause of the injury or death in order for the plaintiff to recover. When my clients come to me, we spend a great deal of time going through these elements so that the client feels comfortable with the strengths and weaknesses of the case.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me.