The Georgia Department of Transportation reports over 100,000 injuries each year in auto accidents, and nearly 1200 fatalities. Georgia insurers estimate that the average driver may be involved in 3-4 accidents during their lifetime, most minor, but some very serious or even life-changing. Knowing your rights and responsibilities before an accident will help ease your anxiety and may make the difference between getting compensation for your injuries and losing your rights.
Common Causes of Georgia Automobile Accidents
While weather, road conditions, and faulty equipment are responsible for many crashes, the most common cause is driver error. Before an injured person can pursue a claim for damages after an accident, he must prove that the other driver was negligent. Evidence of any of the following may prove fault:
- Failure to obey traffic signals or signs
- Distracted driving, including texting or talking on the phone.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Aggressive driving
Collecting and preserving the evidence you will need to prove your case is one of the primary jobs of a Carrollton, Georgia accident attorney. Evidence may include:
- Police reports
- Photos of the accident scene.
- Statements from witnesses.
- Reports from accident investigators and reconstruction experts.
- Medical records and expert testimony
What Damages May Be Collected?
There are two types of damages in an auto accident claim: Economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are measurable financial losses or expenses, and include:
- Doctors’ bills
- Rehabilitation services
- Continuing care if someone is permanently disabled
- Mental health services
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings, if you are permanently disabled or a loved one is killed in an accident
- Funeral expenses, if a loved one is killed in an accident
- Property damages, including your vehicle and property inside the vehicle
- Rental car expenses
- Expenses for cleaning, yard work, and other activities that you cannot do for yourself after an accident
Non-economic damages are harder to measure but can be much greater than the economic damages. These include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of companionship if a loved one is killed in an accident
The third type of damage, punitive damages, may be awarded when the responsible party’s actions were either intentional or so reckless that a judge or jury deem sit appropriately to punish them. Punitive damages are only awarded after a trial, and often are awarded against manufacturers or companies that knew their products were dangerous, and either hid the information from customers or ignored the danger.
What Is The Process For A Georgia Accident Claim?
Before any claims can be made, it is necessary to identify the parties responsible for the accident. There may be more than one person responsible, and, in some cases, a car manufacturer, commercial trucking company, mechanic, or another party not directly involved in the accident may be partially responsible.
After identifying the responsible parties, all insurers must be identified. All drivers in Georgia are required to carry automobile insurance, but sometimes drivers carry only the minimum amount of coverage or carry no insurance at all. In those cases, your uninsured motorist coverage comes into play.
A formal claim is then made to the insurer or insurers, and the process of evaluating the claim begins.
While your claim is pending, payments for medical expenses and rental car expenses can be made, while still preserving your claim for future expenses.
You or your attorney will then negotiate with the insurance company for a possible settlement.
If no settlement is offered, or if the settlement offered by the insurance company is not acceptable, a lawsuit must be filed.
How Can A Carrollton, Georgia Accident Attorney Help
The aftermath of a serious accident can be very stressful. You will be faced with medical expenses, the temporary or permanent loss of income from being unable to work, and the painful process of recovery. There will be a lot of financial and emotional pressure on you and your family. Insurance companies may try to take advantage of the situation, and try to offer a quick settlement. Your attorney can make the process easier, and will be able to negotiate a fair settlement that fully compensates you for your injuries. Your attorney can help by:
Hiring experienced investigators to secure evidence that you will need to prove your case. This may include photos or diagrams of the accident scene, witness statements, maintenance records of the vehicles, especially if one of the vehicles was a commercial vehicle, and other information that will prove who was at fault.
Identifying all possible insurance carriers, and arranging for a rental car, medical payments, and temporary reimbursement for lost wages.
Evaluating your case and determining the appropriate amount of compensation.
Filing claims with insurance companies and other responsible parties.
Negotiating with insurers. An experienced accident attorney will not take the first offer, and will not be intimidated by large insurance companies who want to offer less than your case is worth.
If no settlement is offered, or if a fair settlement cannot be negotiated, filing suit against the responsible parties. The great majority of personal injury cases are settled, but a good accident attorney will be ready and willing to go to court if necessary.
What If The Accident Is Partially My Fault?
The state of Georgia follows the rule of comparative negligence in personal injury cases. Comparative negligence means that an injured person may still recover damages, even if he was partially responsible for an accident. For example, if a driver was speeding and ran into you, but you were not wearing your seatbelt, a judge or jury might find that your injuries were caused in part by your actions. Only if you are fund to be more than 50% responsible will you be completely barred from collecting any damages. If you are less than 50% responsible, you can still be compensated for your losses, but the amount might be reduced. If your total damages were $50,000, and you were found to be 20% at fault for the accident, you would be able to collect $40,000. Do not assume that you have no recourse if you believe you might have been partially at fault. Talk to an accident attorney who can help determine how comparative negligence might affect your case.
When Should I Call A Georgia Car Accident Attorney
The sooner your attorney can begin working on your case, the better your chances will be for a favorable outcome. Evidence may be lost or damaged if not collected and preserved. Witnesses may forget important details, or be hard to find.
An attorney will be able to determine which insurance companies provide coverage, and arrange for medical payments before the bills start piling up. You can get a rental car right away, so you or other family members can still get to work.
Insurance companies know which lawyers have a reputation for tough negotiation, and are may be more willing to cooperate if you have an experienced attorney with a good reputation on your side.
It won’t cost you anything to learn your options; consultations with most personal injury attorneys are free.