Frequently Asked Questions About Car Accidents
When should I file a car accident lawsuit?
The statute of limitations in Georgia is two years, meaning that claims must be brought to court within 24 months of the accrual of claims. This is a distinction from the date of the accident since, sometimes, plaintiffs may not know that they were injured in an accident until some time afterwards.
Will I have to go to court?
Possibly. In some cases, the insurance will settle your claim before there is any court hearing and you will not have to go to court. If not, there will likely be some kind of court hearing on the record where you will have to testify. Even if you do not have to go to court, there is the possibility that you will be required to have your deposition taken, which is a courtlike proceeding under oath with lawyers present. However, there is no judge or jury present at a deposition. Sometimes, cases will not settle until after the parties know a little bit more about the facts of the accident.
What should I do if I have been injured in a car accident?
The first two steps to take are to get medical care immediately and contact and retain a lawyer. In addition to treating your injuries, prompt medical care will document your injuries for purposes of filing a claim and receiving compensation. In order to be fully compensated, there needs to be an understanding of the nature and extent of your injuries. When you are dealing with the litigation process, it is vital to have an attorney who knows and understands how to most effectively file a personal injury lawsuit. Steps that you take when getting medical care and dealing with the insurance company may dictate whether you receive compensation and how much you get. An attorney will help you deal with all of the parties and will ensure that you present the best case for a claim.
What amount can I expect in a car accident settlement?
It depends. The technically answer to this question is that the compensation you receive should put you in the same position as if the accident never happened. This means that you will be compensated for all of your lost work time, pain and suffering, medical bills and property damage. Of course, the insurance may try to make sure that you do not receive what you are due, and that is why you need a car accident lawyer on your side.
How much will a car accident lawyer cost?
A car accident lawyer will cost you nothing out of your pocket. This does not mean that the car accident lawyer is working for free. Instead, it means that they will be paid on a contingency basis. The lawyer is compensated with the same percentage of the settlement or jury award that you receive regardless of the amount of time or money that they invest in the case. The percentage will be determined and set out in writing when you first retain them. If you do not receive any money, you do not have to pay the lawyer anything.
What role does negligence play in my car accident?
Negligence is the determining factor as to who is responsible for the car accident and is required to compensate the other party. If your case goes to trial, the jury will attempt to figure out which one of the parties did not act as a reasonable driver would under the circumstances. Almost the entirety of your case will be trying to prove that it was the other driver who was negligent and not you.
Should I accept a settlement offer from an insurance company?
It depends on whether the insurance company’s settlement offer fairly compensates you for the injury that you have suffered. Know that insurance companies will rarely, if ever, make their best offer first. Instead, they are trying to lowball in an attempt to get you to settle the case quickly. They are banking on the fact that you may need the money so you will take what is offered when it is offered. A car accident lawyer will know and understand the full value of your claim and will alert you to the fact that the insurance company is trying to put one over on you when it comes to giving you the compensation that you deserve.
What if my car accident was caused by defective car parts?
While you may not have the case against the other driver, you will have a viable claim against either the manufacturer of the car part or the retailer who sold it to you. In that case, the nature of the case becomes completely different. Instead of proceeding as an insurance claim and negligence type case, you will be filing a product liability lawsuit where your attorney will have to prove the product was defective in its design or manufacturing. You may even be able to receive punitive damages in a product liability case, which may increase the amount of your award.
What if I was involved in an Uber or Lyft accident?
There are some tricky legal issues involved in rideshare claims because the drivers are not employees of the rideshare companies. Rather, they are independent contractors so the rideshare companies can escape liability for the drivers’ actions. Nonetheless, drivers are required to carry a certain amount of insurance which may be enough to compensate you for your injuries. Thus, the case will proceed as a normal insurance settlement case. Unless the law changes, requiring rideshare companies to treat their drivers as employees, there is a low chance that you will be able to sue Uber or Lyft.
How will I pay for car repairs and medical bills after my accident?
This is one of the toughest things that accident victims face after an accident, and there is no easy answer to this question. The insurance company will pay for some of these costs, but they will not write an unlimited blank check. Many of these costs will not be due immediately, but rather will become part of the negotiation between the insurance companies. You will be compensated when the case settles if you are not at fault for the accident. An attorney can help you negotiate bills with a medical provider while the case is making its way through the legal system.
Can I sue a drunk driver for hitting me?
Absolutely. A drunk driver is liable for the damage that they cause just like any other driver. The fact that the drunk driver can be charged criminally does not preclude you from being able to sue them in a civil proceeding. In fact, as a drunk driver, a jury may also award punitive damages to punish the drunk driver for their conduct.
What should I do when an insurance company calls me and asks for a statement?
You should not be giving statements to the other driver’s insurance company. You are under no obligation, but if you do speak with them, make sure that it is with the advice of your attorney. In general, when you give a statement to your insurance company, you will also want to consult with your attorney first as what you say can impact the chances of success for your claim. You may not be able to refuse to give a statement to your own insurance and still be able to make a claim, but what you say can be used against you. Make sure that you take the time to prepare for your statement and do not speak without preparation.
I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, do I still have a claim?
It depends. In Georgia, courts use a test called comparative negligence to decide if someone who has been negligent themselves can receive compensation. You could generally receive some compensation so long as you were not more than 50 percent responsible for your injuries. For example, if the jury determines that the other driver was 80 percent responsible and your failure to wear a seatbelt means that you bear 20 percent of the responsibility, then your recovery will be reduced by the amount that you are responsible. However, if there was a minor fender bender and your injury almost completely resulted from the fact that you were not wearing a seatbelt, then you may not be able to be compensated for your injuries. Still, in the case of not wearing a seatbelt, you could still be compensated for the property damage so long as the other driver was at fault for the collision.
What to Do at the Scene of a Car Accident with Injuries or Damages
If you find yourself involved in a car accident with damages or injuries, the first thing you need to do is to try to remain calm. Here are a few very important steps to take:
- Call emergency services or 911. In case there have been serious injuries in the car wreck that you have been involved in, you need to call for help as soon as possible. This gets police, ambulances, and even firetrucks on alert and on their way to you. Often, the operator will ask you to perform step 2 while on the phone with them. If there is a fire or smell of fuel, report this immediately.
- Check yourself and everyone involved for injuries. While remaining on the phone with the emergency services operator, check yourself and all of your passengers for passenger injuries. If you are able to exit your vehicle, check the driver of any other car involved for driver injuries, check the passengers, and any pedestrians involved for pedestrian injuries. If you are a pedestrian and are able to call for help, you can report your own injuries. This will help the operator to know what type of help and how much help is needed.
- Take photos of the scene. If you are uninjured and can walk around, use your smartphone to take pictures of the car accident scene. If you are not able to do so, see if anyone else can. Be sure to photograph any personal injury, property damage, skid marks, or any other evidence that could show who was at fault. It may also be a good idea to get a photograph of the make, model, and tag number of any other vehicle involved in the accident.
- Get the information of any other driver. If your vehicle accident involves another automobile, be sure to get contact information from the other driver if possible. You might even choose to get a photograph of their license and insurance cards if they agree to this. You should also get contact information from anyone who may have witnessed the accident and is willing to tell what they saw.
- Remain at the scene. You should never leave the scene of an automobile or pedestrian accident until a police officer has released you to do so. It is also advisable to be thoroughly checked by ambulance services before leaving the scene.
What to Do After Leaving the Scene
Many car accident victims do not know what to do after they have left the scene after they have been involved in a car wreck. You may have some of the issues mentioned earlier, such as mounting medical bills, lost time from work or school, loss of transportation, or even a death and funeral expenses. Where can you turn for help? A car accident lawyer can advise you on how to proceed to receive compensation if you are having to deal with personal injury or property damage from an auto accident that was not your fault. Here are a few steps to take after you have left the scene of an accident:
- Call a car accident attorney. As car accident lawyers, we can help guide you through the process of filing a claim for a car accident lawsuit. Without an accident attorney, you may have to pay out of pocket for any injuries or damages incurred in the accident, even if it was not your fault. By choosing us to represent you in your case, you can be assured that we will do everything possible to help you through this traumatic time. It is a good idea to call a car accident lawyer before speaking with anyone else.
- Gather paperwork. If you are out of the hospital, you may want to gather any medical bills, doctor notes, diagnosis, the costs of any prescriptions related to the accident, receipts for towing services, rental cars, hospital and doctor visits, and any other expenses incurred from the car accident. You should also gather estimates for repairing damages to your car or other property, and/or paperwork from the insurance company if they have totaled the vehicle.
- Make notes of other inconveniences. Notes should be made about the time that you or your passengers have had to miss from work. You may be able to receive compensation for this in the event of a car accident lawsuit. Other expenses directly related to the accident should also be reported, such as childcare, maid services, etc. for someone who is unable to take care of their daily tasks.
- Bring everything to us. Once you have scheduled an appointment to speak with one of our automobile accident lawyers, be sure to bring in any of the paperwork, receipts, bills, pictures of the scene, pictures of damages and injuries, estimates, and witness testimony to the meeting. We can use all of this to determine your right to pursue damages in a car accident lawsuit, and how much should those damages be if you choose to pursue them.
Taking photographs at the scene of an accident, making notes after an accident, and keeping records of what happens after can make all of the difference in a car accident lawsuit. People generally forget the details of a collision soon after it has finished, and so by keeping these basic records, it can help to build a more robust lawsuit if you need to pursue legal action for any injuries or damages that you may have sustained.
Common Auto Collision Factors
In many cases, some car accidents are simply unavoidable – especially in circumstances when the negligent actions of another motorist causes for the accident or if there is a mechanical malfunction that causes a driver to lose control of their vehicle.
While there can be a variety of circumstances that contribute significantly to the cause of a collision, in the many years that collision data has been collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are a number of factors that consistently arise in many accident situations. Some of these factors include (but are not limited to):
- Parking Lot Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Distracted Driving Collisions
- Hit & Run Accidents
- Commercial Vehicle Collisions
- Drunk Driving
- Rear-End Crashes
- Reckless Driving
- Seat Belt Injuries
- Texting & Driving
- Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Teenage Drunk Driving
In most instances, serious personal injuries are simply caused due to drivers not being responsible and not paying attention while they are behind the wheel. An interesting “distracted driver” statistic is that in the time it takes to send a short text message, a vehicle can easily travel the length of a football field.
Injured Drivers and Insurance Companies – What To Do
In most auto collisions that involve considerable damage, the insurance company that issues the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will usually send out an investigator to assess the damage and try to determine the cause of the accident.
It is very important to remember that these adjusters are not your friend. They are highly-skilled individuals that are trained to obtain sensitive information from you when you are most vulnerable. In the event of a lawsuit, this information can be used against you, which can substantially reduce the compensation amount to which you may be entitled.
By hiring the services of a competent Georgia auto accident lawyer, you will have someone that can act as a shield to these investigators, and help to guide you safely past the dangers of dealing with insurance companies.
Car Accident Settlements
It is very uncommon for injury or vehicle damage claims following a car accident to be heard at trial. These cases are typically resolved by dealing directly with insurance companies. Even if a claim is filed against an individual and not the insurer, it is still likely to be settled without a trial. Therefore, it is important to have an experienced car accident lawyer to help you understand how car accident claims and settlements are resolved.
A settlement is a compromise among the parties involved in a dispute and having a skilled attorney at your side will increase your chances of a higher settlement amount. To reach an appropriate settlement, hire an experienced car accident lawyer. The factors that must be considered include:
- Insurance coverage
- Car damage and repairs
- Medical bills from both the past and future
- Pain and suffering of the injured
- Lost wages from missing work
In a car accident lawsuit, there are many different types of liability car accident claims and other possible defendants besides the other driver.
Georgia Car Accident Laws
A handful of states are contributory negligence states where victims who are negligent in any way cannot recover anything in compensation. However, most states are comparative negligence states, including Georgia. This means that liability will be apportioned based on the percentage of negligence that each party has been assigned. For example, if the victim of a car accident was traveling above the speed limit, they may be a certain percentage at fault, and their compensation could be reduced as a result.
Georgia’s minimum liability insurance coverage amounts that a driver is required to have include:
- $25,000 for the death or injury of one individual, which can be another driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, yourself, etc.
- $25,000 for any property damage caused by the accident
- $50,000 for the death or injury of more than one individual in a single accident
Georgia state law requires accidents to be reported immediately to local police if there is property damage of over $500, an injury, or death. It is also required that parties exchange information such as license, insurance, and contact information. Parties involved in a car crash must assist any injured persons and remain at the scene of the accident until all obligations are completed.
Georgia Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a state law that determines the deadline for a plaintiff to file a lawsuit. The time limit varies according to the case type or level of injuries the plaintiff has sustained. The statute of limitations does not apply to car insurance claims.
Georgia Code Section 9-3-33 states that “Actions for injuries to a person shall be brought within two years after the right of action accrues.” This means that whoever was injured in a car accident must file a claim within two years.
The deadline to file a wrongful death car accident lawsuit in Georgia is two years, while the deadline to file a car accident lawsuit over vehicle damage caused by the accident is four years, according to Georgia Code section 9-3-31.
It is important for victims to contact a Georgia car accident lawyer to help guide them through the complex legal steps of a car accident lawsuit.
Do You Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
The Eichholz Law Firm helps car accident victims take legal action that advances their legal rights. Our personal injury lawyers have experience with every step of the process and know the tricks that insurance companies will use to try to make sure that victims do not receive fair compensation.
Our car accident lawyers will negotiate on behalf of accident victims knowing that they can handle the legal process if the insurance company’s offer is inadequate. They will try to resolve legal issues outside of court but will take the matter to court if necessary. Insurance companies are often fairer to victims who they know are represented by counsel.
The Eichholz Law Firm prides itself on providing individuals with an attorney to serve their specific needs. Georgia residents who need a car accident lawyer may contact our law firm and will receive reliable legal counsel.
Call the Eichholz Law Firm today at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.
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