What is joint and several liability in Georgia?
When it comes to injury and tort law, joint and several liability is a very important method of determining how an injured party is compensated by the liable party, usually after some type of personal injury case is settled.
Here is an overview of what joint and several liability means, and what it looks like in Georgia:
Joint and Several Liability
Joint and several liability, true to its name, means that if there is more than one negligent defendant, they are all held liable, together and separately. Therefore, an injured party plaintiff can collect his or her entire judgment from as many defendants as he or she wants, or from just one.
For example, if Anne and Bob are found both liable for causing $1000 worth of damages to Carl, Carl can opt to collect $1000 from Anne and Bob together ($500 each, for example), or just Anne ($1000 from her), or just Bob ($1000 from him).
Most states follow the doctrine of joint and several liability.
Comparative Negligence in Georgia
Georgia is one of the small handful of states that has abolished joint and several liability. Instead, Georgia operates under a contributory negligence theory.
Under Georgia's relevant contributory negligence statute, a jury may allocate fault among all persons who are held liable for an injury -- including the plaintiff. Once a jury accounts for the percent of fault attributable to the plaintiff, the remaining obligation for the damage is then divided amongst the defendants. For example, if a jury decides that two defendants are equally responsible for an injury, each respective negligent defendant would be responsible for exactly 50% of the damages. This is also known as a type of comparative negligence.
Georgia's law also follows the rule of modified comparative negligence, which is not as kind to plaintiffs. Under a theory of modified comparative negligence, plaintiff is barred from recovery altogether if he or she is more than 50% at fault for the damages.
There are many other types of comparative negligence and forms of recovery, and civil damages are a complicated topic. If you have questions about liability in Georgia, be sure to consult a local, experienced attorney who can help you sort out this convoluted matter.
- Contributory and Comparative Negligence (FindLaw)
- Proving Fault in Accidents (FindLaw)
- Defenses: Contributory and Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases (FindLaw)
- What is Comparative Negligence? (FindLaw's Injured)