According to the American Bar Association, there were 31,672 lawyers in the state of Georgia as of 2017, and these lawyers specialize in several different areas of law, and indeed, have differing opinions on many topics. However, if you ask any attorney when you should obtain the services of a lawyer after a car accident, you would undoubtedly receive the same unanimous answer, which is “as soon as possible.” The obvious question then becomes “Why?” To fully understand the reasoning behind this answer, you need understand some of the characteristics of our judicial system.
Why is Hiring an Attorney Important?
The sixth amendment in the United States Constitution establishes an individual’s rights in a criminal proceeding one of which is commonly referred to as the “confrontation clause”, which establishes an individual’s right to face their accuser. Moreover, in Mattox v. United States, 156 U.S. 237 (1895), the Supreme Court interpreted the confrontation clause to ensure an individual’s right to:
- Call witnesses to testify
- Allow the accused to cross examine their accuser and any witnesses called against them
- Allow jurors to make a determination as to the credibility of the accuser and any witnesses
Although the sixth amendment and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the confrontation clause are primarily focused on criminal cases, the sixth amendment solidifies the type of legal system we have in America and in civil law, which is known as the “adversarial system.” The adversarial system in civil law permits each party to call witnesses and try to minimize or disprove the case that is being made against them, but successfully navigating the adversarial system requires an intimate knowledge of the law. Due to the fact that the practice of law takes years to perfect, an attorney’s services can be invaluable when you are involved in a civil proceeding.
Does the Adversarial System Apply to Car Accident Cases?
In the context of a car accident, the adversarial system takes effect immediately. If you are in a car crash, you might notice that no one ever wants to admit fault. Even if it is abundantly clear that the other driver was at fault, they will undoubtedly try to place the blame on you, because the at-fault driver and their insurance company have a financial stake in trying to prove that you were in the wrong. The at-fault driver does not want to pay more for insurance, pay for a ticket, or deal with the penalties that come with having points on their driver’s license.
Similarly, the at-fault driver’s insurance company either doesn’t want to compensate you for your injuries or wants to minimize the amount you are entitled to recover. As a result of the financial interests of the at-fault driver and their insurance carrier, they will immediately start working to weaken or completely eliminate your claim, and if you fail to act, they could succeed by utilizing Georgia’s contributory negligence laws.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Georgia
Causing a car accident is considered an act of negligence, which is where the term “at fault” derives its meaning from. The at-fault driver failed to exercise a degree of care that would normally be exercised by an ordinary person in the same situation, which in turn caused the accident. The at-fault driver’s actions in most cases meet the definition of negligence under O.C.G.A. § 51-1-2.
However, it is possible for both parties to share responsibility for causing the accident. This situation is known as comparative negligence, and in this scenario, each party is ultimately assigned a percentage to quantify the degree to which each individual caused the car accident. Moreover, if it is determined that each party shared equal responsibility in causing the accident. Neither party will be forced to pay anything, which is commonly referred as a “50/50 fault” scenario.
How do Comparative Negligence Laws Affect my Recovery?
If you are found to have partial responsibility in causing a car accident, your recovery will be diminished by the percentage of fault assigned to you. For example, if you were found to have been 40% responsible for causing your accident and the other party was 60% responsible, the damages awarded to you will be reduced by 40%.
So, in light of the legal landscape within our state, failing to act aggressively after a car accident could be costly, which is why hiring a car accident attorney as soon as possible is so important.
Car Accident Lawyer in Atlanta, GA
At Cambre and Associates, our car accident attorneys have dedicated their careers to helping individuals who have been involved in auto accidents. Our lawyers are dedicated to guiding you through the legal process and providing aggressive representation that will protect your financial interests. Don’t face your adversary alone. Call our office today for a free consultation to find out how a knowledgeable car accident attorney can help you.