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There are two general categories of law: civil and criminal. Criminal law deals with crime and punishment. Civil law, for the purposes of this chapter, encompasses civil duties and their breach and damages. Car accident cases generally involve “torts” (injuries). To bring a civil claim in the courts, you need to have all four parts of a case present: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
A civil duty is an obligation you owe to people in the community. It can come from a contract, law or it can just be a general civil obligation. When we drive cars, we are all charged with the duty to drive with ordinary reasonable care. Basically, the law says you have to be careful.
The second requirement is that the other person must have failed to do his or her legal duty; he or she “breached” the duty. An example of a breach of duty would be failing to yield, not paying attention, speeding, etc. Failing to do your duty of acting carefully is generally called “negligence” as in, “she negligently turned in front of the other car.” It just means the driver was not being careful.
The third requirement is that the failure to do the duty must cause something bad to happen. If you drive like a jerk and swerve all over the road with no one around and nothing happens, there was duty and breach, but it did not cause a crash. Another example would be if you had cancer and were in a car crash. If the crash did not change the cancer, you could not claim the medical bills from cancer because they were not caused by the other driver’s failure to drive carefully.
Finally, if the person breached their duty and it caused something bad to happen, the court will look to see what damages were caused.
The victim of a personal injury in Georgia has a legal claim to compensation (money damages) for: