If you are looking for a personal injury attorney on the south side of Atlanta near Hapeville, East Point, or College Park, we have an office conveniently located near the airport. Our attorneys offer free consultations in our Hapeville office. Before you schedule an appointment to speak with an attorney, you may have many questions about what to expect. The article below is a guide that may be useful for you if you have suffered from a personal injury claim.
What is a Personal Injury Case?
“Personal injury” is a general term that describes an area of civil law that allows victims who are injured by other people’s or corporation’s carelessness to recover compensation. In legalese, the term for a legal wrongdoing is a “tort.” The term “negligence” refers to the at-fault party’s carelessness, which is measured by a “standard of care” of a “reasonable” person. In other words, how would a reasonable person in the same circumstances have acted in order to be careful not to hurt another person? For example, in the context of an automobile wreck, if a person runs a red light, then it is usually going to mean he or she was negligent because any reasonable driver knows that running a red light is careless and could cause someone else harm.
Personal injury and tort law extends far beyond just an ordinary car wreck. Plaintiffs and claimants can bring lawsuits in court for just about any type of negligence, whether it be committed by an individual person or by a company. And, the injured party can also be an individual or a company. Examples of types of personal injury claims include medical malpractice, professional malpractice, slip & fall or premises liability, negligent security, products liability, truck accidents, car accidents, plane crashes, or medical device defects.
When Do I Need an Attorney?
You may be asking yourself if you need an attorney to handle your case. Whether you need an attorney depends on the particular circumstances of your case. Although this is not an exhaustive list, you probably need an attorney when:
1. the insurance company is not paying you fair compensation for your injuries;
2. your injuries are more than just “soft tissue” injuries, meaning if you break or fracture a bone, require surgery, lose a limb, or suffer any kind of catastrophic or permanent injury;
3. when there are complex issues of law involved;
4. when there are multiple parties who could be responsible for your injuries;
5. when your medical bills exceed $5,000.00;
6. when an investigation or an expert is required; or,
7. when your case is a complex medical malpractice, products liability, trucking accident, or any case that involves a corporate defendant.
In cases where you may have some minor neck and back pain and treat for a few weeks with a chiropractor or physical therapist, you may not need to hire a personal injury attorney. But, it never hurts to consult with one, as most consultations with injury attorneys in the Atlanta area are free.
How Do I Pay For My Medical Treatment?
After you have been hurt in a car accident, injured by a defective product, or injured by the negligence of another person or corporation, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Medical treatment by qualified doctors and other providers is essential to showing a key element of a personal injury case, which the legal community refers to as “damages.” Basically, you want to be able to prove that you were hurt by the accident or incident for which you are seeking compensation.
Unfortunately, many folks do not have health insurance or their health insurance is insufficient to cover a lot of medical treatment. Paying for your medical treatment can be tough under such circumstances. And, you cannot obtain payment of medical treatment from the at-fault party as you go; you have to finish your treatment first and be reimbursed as part of your settlement later.
Thus, paying for treatment can be complex. Of course, if you have health insurance, then your health insurance should pay for treatment. Often times, your own automobile insurance or supplemental insurance that you purchased may have medical payments coverage that you may use to pay for treatment. If you do not have any insurance that will cover treatment, then it is advisable that you contact an attorney to assist you.
What Steps Do I Need to Take to Make a Personal Injury Claim?
The type of injury or claim you have will determine what steps you need to take to bring a personal injury claim, and an attorney can assist you with the procedure, which often depends on the particular circumstances of your case. However, regardless of the type of case you have, there are certain things you need to do and may be able to do yourself (although an attorney will definitely do these things and probably more) including:
1. Get medical treatment immediately and continue to seek medical treatment from your doctor until he or she releases you from treatment;
2. Preserve evidence. That could mean taking photographs of the damage to your vehicle or of the scene of the wreck. Or, that can mean saving the defective product that injured you. Or, if you are injured in a place of business, it could mean taking photographs of the dangerous condition that caused your injury and making sure that any video evidence is not destroyed (here is an example where an injury lawyer would help you tremendously by sending a letter asking the business not to destroy evidence).
3. Track down witnesses. If there is a witness to the incident that caused your injury, obtaining their names and numbers is helpful to preserving evidence in your case.
4. Report your claim to insurance companies. Most plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuits start out as insurance claims. A car accident almost always involves insurance, as drivers are required to have insurance. If you are in a car wreck, then report the wreck to your insurance company and to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Just be sure to be careful about giving recorded statements—don’t do it.
5. Get a report. Whether it be a police report or an incident report, incidents and accidents are often memorialized as a matter of course. If there is a report of the incident that caused your injury, get a copy.
Obviously, the above-listed items are not exhaustive, but are a decent beginning to setting up your personal injury claim. An attorney would conduct further investigations and obtain documents, photographs, witness statements, expert advice, and insurance information, and file necessary legal documents and pleadings on your behalf when bringing a claim.
Do I Have to File a Lawsuit to Make a Claim?
Most personal injury cases start out as insurance claims. Depending on the circumstances of your case and the severity of your injury, a lawsuit may not even have to be filed. Insurance companies often settle injury claims without a formal complaint being filed in court. Saving the time and money on litigation is more efficient in many cases. However, if there are disputes as to value of your case or liability, then a lawsuit must be filed within 2 years of the date of your injury in order to preserve your right to bring the claim in court.
A lawsuit begins with a written pleading called a complaint and is usually filed in the county court where the defendant resides. The defendant has the opportunity to answer the complaint in a written pleading. After the answer is filed, the parties engage in a process known as discovery, where the two sides obtain evidence and information from each other. The last step is trial by jury, where both sides present their cases, and a jury decides whether the defendant acted negligently, and, if so, whether the plaintiff should be awarded compensation and how much. You, as the plaintiff, will likely have to be deposed, or interviewed under oath by the other party. You will also testify at a trial in court before the jury. Many cases settle before trial.
As you can see, personal injury claims can be vastly different and often also require thorough investigations and complex litigation. Hiring a qualified attorney is essential to pursuing most personal injury claim. If you are looking for a personal injury attorney in the south Fulton and Clayton county areas, Hapeville, East Point, or College Park, please call the Law Offices of Betty Nguyen Davis to meet with an attorney today. 404-593-2620.