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Automobile Accidents

Being involved in a car accident is scary and stressful, but getting hurt and having to deal with insurance claims and lawsuits is even worse.  That’s why when you’re involved in a car accident, it’s important to have a qualified personal injury attorney to help you obtain fair compensation from the insurance company.  The following is an overview of the important aspects of handling an auto accident claim in Georgia.

1.  Initial steps to making an automobile wreck injury claim.  After you’re hurt in a car accident, your injury attorney may do the following, depending on the severity of accident you had:

  • talk to witnesses;
  • obtain a copy of the police report;
  • talk to the reporting police officer;
  • visit the scene of the accident;
  • set up a claim with the at-fault driver’s and your insurance companies;
  • obtain insurance coverage information;
  • obtain a copy of the ticket disposition for the at-fault driver; and,
  • obtain any photographs of the wreck and damage to vehicles.

2.  What should you be doing after you are hurt in a car accident?   After the wreck, you should:

  • contact an attorney who specializes in personal injury law in Georgia;
  • seek medical treatment from your doctor immediately (if you went to the emergency room via ambulance after your wreck, follow up as instructed by the ER doctor);
  • make sure your health insurance company covers your treatment;
  • call your insurance company and report the accident;
  • call the at-fault driver’s insurance company and report the accident; and,
  • take pictures of the damage to your vehicle.

You should not do the following:

  • sign any medical information release form that the car insurance company asks you to sign;
  • give the at-fault driver’s insurance company a recorded statement;
  • wait to get medical treatment;
  • sign any releases with the insurance companies or take any money unless you are ready to finalize your claim forever; and,
  • hire unscrupulous chiropractors or attorneys who contacted you (without you having contacted them) after your wreck.

3.  Obtaining and paying for medical treatment.  One of the first questions you’ll probably have after being hurt in a car accident is how do I pay for my medical bills?

  • Use your health insurance to pay for your treatment in advance of settling with the car insurance company.
  • If your car insurance policy has a medical payments portion, then you can make a claim for medical payments under this policy.  Medical payments insurance is different from the general liability insurance belonging to the other driver because it only covers medical treatment actually incurred, whereas the other driver’s insurance will also cover “pain & suffering.”
  • If your auto injury claim is successful, the other driver’s insurance company will eventually reimburse you for your medical and other expenses.

4.  What kinds of losses can you recover for an injury sustained in a car wreck? 

  • pain and suffering;
  • medical bills;
  • lost wages for missed work;
  • any expenses that you actually incurred and that arose from the accident.

5.  How much is a fair and reasonable amount to recover for your car accident?  There is no set way to determine how much your personal injury claim is worth.  Every circumstance is different, and various factors come into play when determining the value of your claim.  Although it is not exhaustive, here are some key elements to valuing your claim:

  • the extent or seriousness of your injuries;
  • the county in which the accident occurred or where the at-fault driver resides;
  • the extent of damage done to your car;
  • the amount of insurance available to pay for your injuries;
  • whether the other driver was driving under the influence or engaging in other reckless behavior such as drunk driving;
  • whether the other driver admits fault for the wreck;
  • whether you had any prior similar injuries;
  • whether you contributed fault to the accident;
  • the type of vehicle that hit you (such as a commercial truck);
  • the amount of medical bills you incurred;
  • the amount of wages you lost from not being able to work; and,
  • other causes of the wreck and/or your injuries (if any), such as a road defect.

6.  How long does it take to resolve my personal injury claim?  Again, this is one of those questions where the answer is “it depends.”  It can take anywhere from 6 months to years to finalize your claim or get a judgment in court against the other driver.  Some of the determining factors for the amount of time it takes are below:

  • the amount of time it takes for you to obtain medical treatment and heal from your injuries.  You don’t want to settle your case until you’re better or as good as you’re going to get based on your doctor’s advice because once you settle your claim, it is done forever; and,
  • whether the other driver’s insurance company is willing to settle for a fair amount.  If the other driver’s insurer refuses to accept fault or won’t pay a fair amount for your injuries, you’ll probably have to file a lawsuit, which means there will be litigation and increase the amount of time it will take to close your claim.
  • whether you settle your claim before trial.  So, after you file a lawsuit, there’s a process of giving and gathering information to and from both sides.  The other side will want to interview you under oath and you’ll want to do the same as to the at-fault driver, witnesses, the police officer, medical providers, and any other person who is important to substantiating your or their case.  You may also end up trying to “mediate” the claim with the other side or settle before trial.  If settlement efforts fail, you’ll end up in court before a judge and a jury, where the jury will determine if you’re entitled to compensation.  This process could take years.

7.  Other key issues for Georgia automobile personal injury claims.

  • Note that the statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim (via filing a lawsuit, so if you do not settle within 2 years, you must file a lawsuit in court or you lose your right) in the state of Georgia is two (2) years from the date of the injury;
  • If you wait to have medical treatment or you have big gaps between visits to the doctor, it makes your claim more difficult;
  • The use of social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, could hurt your claim in the long run if your posts shows you weren’t really hurt or did not take your claim seriously; and,
  • If you have a catastrophic injury or someone in your family died in a car accident, it is important to investigate the possibility of a defective car, road design, or other causes of the injury or death because there could be more available insurance to cover the extensive costs.

In sum, bringing a claim for personal injuries sustained in an automobile collision is not always simple.  Talking to a qualified attorney is imperative to determining what is best for your situation.  To speak to an Atlanta injury attorney about recovering for personal injuries due to a car accident, please contact the Law Offices of Betty Nguyen Davis LLC at (404) 593-2620 for a free consultation.