People are injured in accidents at home, at work, and on the highways and roads every day. It is natural after an accident to worry about how your medical bills are going to get paid, and how you are going to take care of your family if you are out of work. Fortunately, if you were injured in an accident that was not your fault, there may be compensation available to help you and your family recover. Learn some basic information about personal injury law in Georgia here.
Time Limits For Filing Personal Injury Claims
One of the most important things to know is that there are time limits, called statutes of limitations, to make claims in all personal injury cases. In most cases, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two years after the accident or injury. Some exceptions do apply; if an injury was not discovered, or if the injured person was under the age of eighteen when the injury occurred, the statute of limitations may be extended in some cases. Talk to a Carrollton, Georgia personal injury attorney for more information about the statute of limitations as it applies to your case.
Types of Personal Injury Cases
Injuries resulting from the negligent or intentional actions of another person can occur anywhere, but some of the most common types of personal injury cases are:
- Car accidents: With millions of vehicles on our nation’s roads every day, accidents are inevitable. Fortunately, all states, including Georgia, require drivers to carry liability insurance, which will pay for property damage and injuries in an accident.
- Dog Bites: Not all pet owners are responsible enough to keep their pets under control. When pets get loose and attack their neighbors, the owner may be responsible, if he had reason to know that the pet was potentially dangerous. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover personal injury claims for dog bites and attacks.
- Medical malpractice: Fortunately, medical malpractice is not common, but when a health care professional or hospital makes a mistake, it can lead to devastating injuries or even death.
- Defective products: Manufacturers of products are responsible when a design flaw or mistake in manufacturing causes a product to pose a danger to its users. If you are injured by a defective product you may have a claim against the manufacturer. This includes dangerous flaws in vehicles that lead to accidents. You may have a claim against the manufacturer, even if you were not the purchaser if the vehicle.
- Wrongful death: When an intentional or negligent act causes death, the resulting claim is called Wrongful Death, and is governed by statute in Georgia, and in every other state.
- Workplace injuries: Injuries at your place of employment are covered by worker’s compensation insurance, required of most employers in Georgia.
- Slips and Falls: The owners of commercial and residential properties owe a duty to their customers and invited guests to keep the premises safe. If a property owner allowed a known hazard, like a spill, to exists, or failed to correct a known danger, like a loose board, he may be liable for damages.
Personal Injury Damages
There are three basic types of damages in a Georgia personal injury case.
Special damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and replacement of damaged or destroyed property. General damages include loss of future earnings, pain, and suffering, and emotional trauma. Punitive damages are awarded when the responsible party’s actions were intentional or especially reckless, and are intended to punish the wrongdoer.
Assessing The Value of a Claim
The object of any personal injury claim is to compensate the injured person for what they have lost, and, to the extent possible, place them in the same position as they were before the accident. It is, of course, impossible to do that when a loved one has died, or when someone is permanently disabled, scarred, or impaired. The only way in which the legal system can help injured persons and their families is through monetary compensation.
Economic damages are usually easier to quantify, and may include:
- Medical expenses, including hospital stays, surgeries, medications, medical devices, physical therapy, and prosthetics
- Property damage
- Payments for lost earnings
- Rental car expenses
- Payments for personal services like housekeeping, yard maintenance, and other tasks while you are unable to perform them
- Reconstructive surgery
- Mental health services
Assessing the value of non-economic damages is more difficult, Non-economic damages include pain and suffering loss of enjoyment of life, depression, and anxiety, and loss of companionship when a loved one is killed. A personal injury attorney will be able to accurately assess the value of your case based on past experience with similar cases, the parties involved, the types of insurance available, and their knowledge of past awards in your jurisdiction.
Dealing With Georgia Insurance Companies
A common error made by injured persons is assuming that insurance companies have their best interests at heart. The reality is, insurance companies need to make a profit, and one way to do that is to minimize the amount they pay in claims. You can negotiate and settle a claim on your own, but you may not receive the amount of compensation that you deserve.
Insurance companies do not have to tell you if you are settling for less than your case is worth, and once you accept a settlement, you may not ask for more in the future, even if you continue to have medical expenses, pain, or other complications from your injuries.
Knowing the true value of your case is essential when dealing with insurance companies, and having a Carrollton, Georgia personal injury attorney by your side will give you the greatest chance of receiving what you deserve.
Out of Court Settlements for Georgia Personal Injury Cases
The great majority of personal injury cases settle out of court. Insurance companies know that
taking a case to court is expensive and time-consuming, and there is no guarantee that a judge or jury will give them a better result than they would have achieved by negotiating a fair settlement. Of course, that is also true for injured persons. The best personal injury attorneys know how much their clients’ cases are worth, and know when to settle and when to litigate. Insurance companies also know which law firms are known for their willingness to go to court if necessary, and which lawyers have the best success rates in court. Having the right attorney by your side may actually encourage an insurer to offer a fair settlement rather than risk having to pay the same amount, or more, after a lengthy court battle. An injured person should never try to face an insurance company in court without a lawyer.
Can I Afford To Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer?
Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. They do not charge by the hour but charge a percentage of your final settlement or award. If you do not settle or win your case, you will not owe any attorney’s fees. While it may seem as if you are getting less money from your claim, it is likely that your attorney will be able to negotiate or win a larger amount than you would have been able to get on your own.
Most Carrollton, Georgia personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, so you may talk to a lawyer about your case with no obligation. At the initial consultation, you may get an idea of what your case is worth, an estimate of the time it might take to conclude your case and a preliminary assessment of what insurance benefits might be available while your case is pending.