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Fault is rarely black in white in the aftermath of a car accident. In many cases, multiple parties may each share a degree of fault. Determining fault in a car accident involves gray areas that can make it difficult for victims to seek fair compensation for their injuries.
The Melonakos Law Firm can explain how liability works when multiple parties are at fault and what you can expect if you were partially at fault in an accident. In most cases even if you share part of the blame, you can still seek compensation for losses you suffered, so do not despair. Additionally, factors may have been at play that you weren’t even aware of. An experienced accident attorney can help you get a better sense of your legal options.
Each state has laws that outline what happens when one party causes harm to another party. State-specific joint and several liability laws also describe what happens when more than one party shares liability for the same incident.
If parties are jointly liable, it means they are each individually responsible for the full amount of any compensation owed to the victim. If parties are severally liable, it means they are each responsible only for their own respective portion of the victim’s compensation. If parties are jointly and severally liable, victims can file claims against any at-fault party, after which it becomes the responsibility of all at-fault parties to sort out who owes what to the victim.
Here’s more information on how each state we operate in handles these concepts.
North Carolina describes its pure joint and several liability law in § 1-113 of the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) Under this law, accident victims have the right to seek compensation by filing a claim against any at-fault party when multiple parties share fault for the accident. Victims are not limited to seeking only certain portions of their compensation from each defendant. Once the victim files a claim against one defendant, all at-fault parties must settle among themselves who will pay and how much.
South Carolina used to allow joint and several liability, much like North Carolina, but changed its laws in 2005. Since then, under § 15-38-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws (S.C.C.L.), defendants who are less than 50 percent at fault may only be held severally liable for their own share of the victim’s damages.
If a defendant is found 50 percent or more at fault in South Carolina, the victim may be entitled to hold defendants jointly and severally liable. However, the law does specify that a settlement involving one defendant can decrease the liability of other defendants.
Like South Carolina, Georgia stopped recognizing most aspects of joint and several liability in injury cases after legislative reforms in 2005. Under § 51-12-30 through § 51-12-33 of the Official Annotated Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A), juries in the state are now required to apportion liability among all at-fault parties. So, if multiple parties are at fault in a Georgia car accident, each party only has to pay for its share of the damage.
Comparative negligence laws describe what happens when someone is partially at fault for an accident in which they were injured. There are three main types of comparative negligence systems.
In a pure comparative negligence system, injury victims can collect compensation from at-fault parties even if they were 99 percent at fault themselves. However, the amount of compensation available is typically reduced based on their percentage of fault. So, someone who suffered $100,000 in losses in an accident for which they were 99 percent at fault could receive $1,000 in compensation from the party who was 1 percent at fault.
A pure contributory negligence system, on the other hand, is effectively the opposite. Injury victims can only collect compensation from at-fault parties in pure contributory negligence systems if they are found to be completely blameless. In other words, victims are barred from collecting compensation if they are even 1 percent at fault.
Modified comparative negligence systems, which most states use, combine elements of pure comparative and pure contributory negligence systems. Injury victims can still seek compensation if they were partially at fault in a modified comparative negligence system. However, just like in pure comparative negligence systems, the amount of compensation available may be reduced based on their percentage of fault. Additionally, victims are typically barred from seeking compensation if their percentage of fault meets certain thresholds, most commonly 50 or 51 percent.
Here’s how the three states in which we take cases handle negligence.
North Carolina is one of the few remaining states to follow a pure contributory negligence system. This means you are barred from seeking compensation from other parties after a North Carolina accident unless you are entirely faultless.
Under S.C.C.L. § 15-38-15, accident victims in South Carolina are permitted to seek compensation from other parties even when they are partially at fault. However, South Carolina’s modified comparative negligence system bars victims from recovery if they are 51 percent or more at fault for the accident themselves.
Under O.C.G.A. §51-11-7, Georgia accident victims are also permitted to seek compensation from others if they are partially at fault. However, Georgia’s modified comparative negligence system bars victims from recovery if they are 50 percent or more responsible for the accident.
If you were injured in a car accident for which you were partially at fault, you can take the following steps to protect your rights and your ability to claim compensation:
If you attempt to negotiate a car accident claim on your own and could potentially have been partially at fault for the crash, the defendant could successfully argue that your liability exceeds allowable thresholds for recovery in your state and consequently avoid having to pay you anything in compensation. Even worse, the other driver could try to file a claim against you to recover compensation for their damages.
An at-fault car accident attorney can help you avoid this possibility and demand fair compensation by:
Whether you have been injured in a car accident in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia, The Melonakos Law Firm can determine which laws apply to your case and evaluate the strength of your claim during a free consultation. Contact us today to tell us about your situation and let us know how we can help.