Georgia lawmakers plan to focus on tort reform when they reconvene in January 2024. Put simply, a tort is a wrongful act that leads to civil liability. Such reforms have been considered for many years, but no lasting legislation has been passed.
The state’s General Assembly aims to push for changes that may include restrictions on premises liability lawsuits and other reforms that some predict will make it harder for injury victims to pursue the compensation they’re owed.
At John Foy & Associates, our Atlanta car accident attorneys believe that Georgians have the right to know about proposed legislation and how it may impact their ability to seek damages after an accident. Let’s take a closer look at potential reforms.
Understanding Both Sides of Georgia’s Tort Reform Battle
As with most political issues, there are two sides to Georgia’s tort reform battle. Understanding both points of view can help you learn more about the issue and how new legislation might impact your future.
Proponents of tort law reform in Georgia believe that current laws make it easy to file frivolous suits. According to reform advocates, such lawsuits increase costs for insurance companies and businesses, which in turn halts the creation of new jobs in local communities.
Lawmakers in favor of tort reform are expected to push for legislation that prevents property owners from being held responsible for crimes committed on their premises that they had no involvement in. Reform proponents also hope to prohibit “direct action” suits, in which plaintiffs sue insurers instead of taking action against insured parties.
Overall, reform proponents favor limits on civil suits because they believe restrictions will benefit the community by lowering insurance costs and protecting small businesses from abusive lawsuits.
Opponents of tort reform in Georgia claim that the state’s problem with frivolous lawsuits is a myth that has been fabricated by business groups and insurance companies to reduce the amount of money that insurers have to pay out to claimants.
Anti-tort reform arguments also emphasize faith in America’s civil justice system, relying on juries to determine if a particular suit is warranted or not. Ultimately, those who are opposed to tort reform believe that the proposed legislation will hurt those who have been injured and lost family members in accidents.
While there are parties on either side of the tort reform battle in Georgia, there are many who believe in a balanced approach to reform. Those individuals agree that injury victims deserve the opportunity to pursue compensation. However, they don’t believe that laws should allow individuals to seek exorbitant sums for injuries and losses that aren’t as serious as they claim.
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The History of Tort Reform in Georgia
Republicans in Georgia’s legislative chambers have supported tort reform for years but have been blocked from passing legislation by Democrats, who have held state House and Senate majorities. While Democrats successfully repressed reform for years, Republicans were able to pass a cap on non-economic damages in 2005 when they won control of both chambers.
Non-economic damages compensate accident victims for subjective losses like emotional distress and pain. Due to the Republican-passed bill, accident victims were limited to claiming up to $350,000 for their emotional and physical pain. However, the Supreme Court overturned this cap in 2010, allowing plaintiffs to pursue as much as they believe they’re owed.
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, similar reforms have failed, including seven bills that were introduced in 2023 and failed to make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote.
How Tort Reform Could Impact Injury Victims
Depending on the pieces of legislation that are passed, injury victims could be impacted in a variety of ways. If direct action lawsuits are prohibited, plaintiffs may be barred from suing insurers. This could leave many victims without financial support when at-fault parties are unable to provide adequate compensation.
- Inability to sue an insurance company and trucking company at the same time
- Difficulties suing property owners for premises liability incidents
- Limits on defective product lawsuits
- Caps on damages
- More roadblocks to seek damages for car accidents, medical malpractice incidents, wrongful death, and other torts
These limitations could seriously impact injury victims’ ability to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and other devastating accident-related losses.
Our Firm Can Fight for the Compensation You’re Owed
At John Foy & Associates, we understand the obstacles that injury victims may face if Georgia’s tort reform battle results in restrictions on injury suits. That’s why we’re here to offer the compassionate and effective legal counsel Georgians need to recuperate from their injuries and brighten their futures.
If you’ve been hurt in a car crash, slip and fall, or another incident, our team can help you pursue a fair settlement or court verdict. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with an attorney from our firm, learn more about your legal rights, and get started on your case.