Personal injury is the wrongful injury of one person caused by the fault of another. A Georgia personal injury claim can seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and potentially punitive damages to punish the offender. Clayton County personal injury attorney Shane Smith answers general questions about Georgia personal injury law:

  • When does someone have a personal injury claim?

In order to have a personal injury case someone must have either a physical or an emotional injury. A victim must be able to show that someone else (the defendant) is at fault for the injury using a negligence, strict liability or intentional misconduct theory. In some cases a victim must show that the other party or parties is predominantly at fault for the injury (carrying over half of the liability for the accident and injuries).

  • What is negligence?

Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonably prudent person would under the same circumstances. Negligence does not require intent; injuries are sustained because of someone's carelessness rather than his intentional act to cause harm. In the legal realm negligence is a part of tort law that may be either criminal or civil.

If someone is negligent then they are responsible for resulting injuries because they acted below the legal standard protecting individuals against foreseeable risk or harm. Someone harmed as a result of another's negligence is entitled to compensation for injuries to themselves or their property.

There are five main negligence principles:

  • A duty of reasonable care by the defendant unto the plaintiff
  • Acting reasonably refers to how a reasonably prudent person would act in similar circumstances. The duty relies upon factors such as physical and mental conditions and the defendant's relationship to the plaintiff.
  • A breach of the duty
  • All circumstances related to the situation are considered when determining if the defendant's actions breached an objective standard of any duty owed. Frequently the duty owed is codified in a statute that was created to ensure the public's safety and security.
  • Damages or injuries to people or property
  • This is the plaintiff's direct harm and may be to him physically or to his property.
  • Causation between the breach and the duty
  • There may be more than one cause of the injury and there may be more than one injury sustained. A court determines what factors caused the injury. An award may be apportioned if the court determines that there is more than one cause of the injury.
  • The causation must not be too remote from the breach and the duty in the causal chain.


  • Can someone be liable for someone else's negligence?

Someone can be held responsible for someone else's actions. For example, a restaurant owner can be held liable for a server who negligently harms a patron within his restaurant.

  • Will the defendant always be liable when all the negligence elements exist?

A defendant in a negligence case can escape liability with several defenses even if negligence is proven. These defenses include contributory negligence, comparative negligence, and assumption of the risk.

  • What is contributory negligence?

Contributory negligence describes when a victim is responsible for a portion of his injuries. For example, someone who ignores warning signs placed by a store owner may be found to have been careless and liable for his own injuries.

  • What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is where the responsibility for the injuries is compared and the amount recovered by the victim is reduced by his fault percentage. The court holds each person accountable for the percentage of damages for which they are responsible.

  • What is assumption of the risk?

Assumption of risk occurs when someone voluntarily exposes himself to danger or a potentially harmful situation. For example, someone who is hurt when using someone's power tool but had not worn protective gear is considered to have assumed the risk. Similarly, someone who attends a baseball game and is hit by a foul ball is considered to have assumed the risk. If a victim was participating in a dangerous activity at the time of the accident then he may be deemed to have "assumed the risk". This is often used as a defense in products liability cases where the victim did not follow directions or warnings posted on a package.

An experienced Clayton County personal injury attorney will pursue a case to get fair compensation for the victim. Call the Law Office of Shane Smith at 770-487-8999 to schedule a free legal consultation.

Shane Smith
Advocate for the Seriously Injured in Georgia

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