Negligence Under Georgia Law
When a personal injury happens to you or a loved one, you want to do everything in your power to prove that the at-fault party was negligent. However, often times those injured don’t understand what is required to prove negligence or the definition of negligence under Georgia law. Therefore, to better understand how the system works, and help you determine if your case involves negligence, we’ve put together the following explanation which we call, “Negligence 101.”
Negligence is the most common basis for personal injury lawsuits. It describes a situation in which a person acts in a careless (or negligent) manner, which results in someone else being injured hurt or property being damaged.
The Elements of Negligence
A personal injury lawsuit isn’t straight forward. There are several elements required in order to prove negligence: Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation and Damages.
Duty: Did the defendant owe a legal obligation to the plaintiff? This is the first question that needs to be answered in order to prove whether there was a relationship between the 2 parties – resulting in the defendant owing a “duty of care” to the plaintiff. As an example, the rules of the road dictate that drivers owe one another a duty to keep a safe distance between their cars.
Breach of Duty: A defendant is liable for negligence when the defendant breaches the duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. When failing to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling the duty, the defendant has breached this duty. Using the prior example, if a driver fails to maintain a safe distance between their car and the car ahead of them by rear-ending that car, they breach their duty (i.e., following too closely).
Causation: Georgia law recognizes 2 types of causation,
- Cause in Fact: A plaintiff must prove that due to the defendant’s actions, the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Often times we employ the “but for” test – “but for” the defendant’s negligent acts, the plaintiff would not have been injured.
- Proximate Cause: This refers to the responsibility of the defendant. The responsibility lies only for those “harms” that the defendant could have foreseen through his or her actions. Anything outside the scope (injury that happens in a separate instance to the plaintiff) is not the responsibility of the defendant.
Damages: Lastly, a plaintiff in a negligence case must prove a “legally” recognized harm. This is shown through physical bodily injury or property damage. The failure to exercise reasonable care must result in actual damages to a plaintiff to whom the defendant owed a duty of care.
While seemingly straightforward, all of these elements a required in order to lay the ground work for a negligence claim. If you have been injured due to the negligence of someone else, we ask you to contact our office immediately. Do not allow someone else’s failure to exercise reasonable care be a reason for life-long suffering. Contact us today!