A car accident can be a traumatic event. And if you’ve sustained serious injuries, you may be facing a prolonged recovery period during which bills pile up, you’re missing time from work, and you have all of the medical expenses related to the accident. That’s why the law provides the ability for those injured by negligent drivers to sue for damages related to their injuries. Unfortunately, this process isn’t necessarily as straightforward as it should be.
At The George McCranie Law Firm, we can help ensure that you get every penny that you’re entitled to and don’t get short-changed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In this article, we’ll discuss how car accident injury litigation works in Georgia. To learn more about how we can improve your chances of getting a fair settlement, contact us today.
How Do Car Accident Claims Work in Georgia?
In Georgia, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is two years. However, you will need to file a claim with the defendant’s insurance company well before that. The insurance company will review your claim, investigate the accident and if they accept liability, offer a settlement.
In order to drive in Georgia, every driver must carry a minimum of $25,000 for bodily injury liability per person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.
Car Insurance Adjusters Will Try to Settle for Less Than Your Claim Is Worth
Many people ask whether or not they “really need” a car accident lawyer to litigate their claim. In cases where they haven’t sustained serious injuries, it may not be worth the effort. Insurance companies are generally good about fairly paying for damages to property and vehicles. These property damages can be settled by using guides such as Kelly’s Blue Book to determine the value of the vehicle. It’s when serious injuries to you or your passengers enter into the equation that the adjusters start to clam up.
The reason for this is simple. Insurance companies are for-profit companies whose main interest is in running a profitable company. That means they want to make money for their stockholders. In effect the insurance company’s own interests are aligned with their stockholders, they represent their stockholders. They have a fiduciary duty to act in their policyholder’s best interests.
In other words, the insurance company is going to make you an offer that is far less than the actual value of your claim. In other words, it’s an offer that you should refuse! They will likely not compensate you for non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) and they will try to blame the accident (at least partly) on you. That’s why if you have extensive injuries, it important not to talk to the insurance company or their adjuster and have your attorney handle all those communications for you. Remember, the insurance company will attempt to “trick” you into providing them with evidence that your injuries are not as severe as you say.
Additionally, they are not above scouring your social media accounts and in cases where a claim is very serious they may even hire a private detective to track your movements. They will present this evidence during trial or in depositions and they will use it to try to discredit you if they can.
How Is Fault Determined in a Georgia Car Accident?
Some car accidents are very cut and dry. One person is fully to blame for the entire accident. But what happens when both drivers were partially at fault?
For instance, let’s say one driver runs a red light and crashes into another driver who is speeding. The driver who ran the red light may be held 80% liable for the accident while the speeding driver may be held 20% liable for the accident. In this case, the accident would not have happened had the driver stopped at the red light but the extent of the other driver’s injuries would have been less had that driver not been speeding.
In this case, the driver who ran the red light is barred from initiating a lawsuit against the driver who was speeding because their own liability is greater than the other drivers. The driver who was speeding, on the other hand, can collect 80% of the damages owed to him in the accident. In other words, his total damages are reduced by 20% — the amount of his own liability. But you can only file a lawsuit when your liability is less than 50%.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Car Accident?
There are two types of compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit, as well as punitive damages, which can be awarded in a car accident cases. In Georgia the law specifies that punitive damages may only be awarded when the defendant’s behavior was especially reprehensible and deserving of punishment. For example, when the defendant was driving drunk or under the influence of drugs.
Compensatory damages are those awarded to the plaintiff to compensate them for their injuries and expenses:
- Economic damages include any out-of-pocket cost related to your injuries. These can include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of employment, and so on. They are relatively easy to put a price tag on and easy to quantify.
- Non-economic damages include those injuries that are not simple to put a price tag on. These include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, emotional trauma, and more. An experienced Douglas GA car accident lawyer will ensure that you are compensated for both your economic damages and your non-economic damages. Insurance companies will generally not offer you non-economic damages beyond nuisance pay.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover Damages
Your initial settlement offer will likely not cover your total expenses let alone your non-economic damages. You will need a personal injury attorney to fight for what you are rightly owed under the law. This is especially true when you have significant bodily injuries that will require that you miss time from work. In fact, the more severe your injuries, the more important it is that you have a car accident lawyer represent you.
In cases where the other driver’s insurance company wants to lay the blame for the accident at your feet, we conduct a full investigation to ensure that doesn’t happen. That means reconstructing the accident, interviewing witnesses, and going over the police report with a fine-tooth comb.
In addition, we will take much of the stress and pressure of dealing with the insurance company off of you. The at-fault driver’s insurance company should not contact you without your attorney’s knowledge if you have retained counsel. If the other driver’s insurance company does try to contact you, you can simply refer them to our office.
Contact The George McCranie Law Firm Today
If you have been seriously injured by a negligent driver, contact The George McCranie Law Firm and we can help you with your claim. We will take the pressure off of you and allow you to focus on your recovery while ensuring you get the maximum amount allowed by law. Give us a call to set up a free consultation today.