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Modified Comparative Negligence in Spinal Cord Cases

Spinal cord injuries can be devastating for victims. These injuries can lead to short- or long-term disabilities, and they often mean that a person will experience a lower quality of life moving forward. If a person sustains a spinal cord injury caused by the actions of another individual or entity, they should be able to recover compensation for their losses. But what happens if a spinal cord injury victim is partially at fault for causing the incident?

Spinal Cord Injuries Can be Devastating

When we examine data available from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), we can see that there are around 300,000 people living in this country with spinal cord injuries, with approximately 18,000 new spinal cord injuries occurring each year.

Unfortunately, spinal cord injury victims are likely to sustain a wide range of losses, and these can be expressed monetarily. The first year of medical care alone for spinal cord injury victims can range anywhere from around $380,000 to more than $1,000,000. Every subsequent year of medical care can reach up to $200,000. These figures do not even factor in lost income and pain and suffering losses.

Spinal cord injury victims who are injured as a result of the careless or negligent actions of others should be able to recover compensation for their losses. However, if a spinal cord injury victim this partially to blame, this could hinder their ability to recover full compensation.

Modified Comparative Negligence in Georgia

Georgia operates under what is called a “modified comparative negligence” system. This means that injury victims could still be able to recover compensation even if they are partially at fault for causing their injuries. However, there are caveats to this.

Under Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33), a person will be unable to recover compensation if they are 50% or more at fault for causing the incident.

If a person is at 49% or less at fault for an incident, they will still be able to recover compensation for their losses, but the total amount of compensation they receive will be reduced based on their percentage of fault. Perhaps the best way to illustrate how this works is to look at a theoretical spinal cord injury example.

Suppose a person sustains $1 million dollars in damages due to a spinal cord injury because they were rear-ended by another driver. In most situations, the rear driver in these situations will be at fault for the incident. However, what if the front driver’s brake lights were out. The rear driver could argue that they were not properly able to determine the speed or distance of the front vehicle because of the faulty brake lights. Let us suppose that a jury determines that the front vehicle was 40% responsible for the incident. In this situation, the spinal cord injury victim would still be able to recover compensation, but not full compensation.

Instead of receiving the full $1,000,000 in compensation, the spinal cord injury victim would recover $600,000 instead. This amount is $400,000 less, and was taken out of the total to account for the front driver’s 40% of responsibility for the incident.

If you or somebody you care about has sustained a spinal cord injury caused by the careless or negligent actions of another individual or entity in Georgia, you need to speak to a skilled spinal cord injury lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney will be able to investigate your claim, determine liability, and help recover maximum compensation for your situation.

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