Our roads are dangerous enough without the addition of distracted drivers talking and texting on their phones, swerving across lanes, and scraping other cars. Georgia car accidents happen every day and impact the victims’ lives in many ways. While drivers must always exercise caution, car accidents can happen when least expected on our roads. In some instances, crashes can severely injure or even kill others on the road and put drivers at legal risk.
If another party’s negligence caused your accident, you can recover compensation. Contact Bethune Law Firm today for a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer and get started on your personal injury claim.
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The First Steps After Car Accidents in Atlanta, Georgia
When a person is involved in a crash, they are legally obliged to pull over to a safe location and exchange contact details, driver’s license numbers, insurance information, and license plate numbers with all other parties involved in the wreck. Further, victims must contact the local police department for accidents that result in injury, death, or property damage of more than $500.
Parties must avoid discussing the accident with others, and especially, should not admit fault for the accident or apologize, as such statements could hamper a case. Even if a driver believes that he or she is not at fault, he or she should refrain from leaving the scene of the accident before anyone else leaves, and if a police officer issues a ticket, drivers may choose to accept the penalty on their license or contest the charge in a court of law.
At the scene of the crash, it is important to remain calm and help law enforcement officials resolve the situation. If anyone has been hurt, emergency medical services should be called for assistance at the scene. Drivers should further ask police officers for information on how to get a copy of the accident report, who to direct questions to, and how to retrieve their vehicle if it was towed from the scene.
Should law enforcement not be called to the scene of the car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, those involved should complete a personal accident report that could serve to protect them in court.
File a Claim Using an Experienced Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
It can be tempting not to file a claim for fear of insurance cancellation or higher premiums. However, not filing a claim can increase the risk of a plaintiff losing a lawsuit should one arise as a result of the accident. It may also increase the chances of the victim’s insurance not covering any repair bills or medical bills associated with the crash.
As soon as possible after an incident, drivers should send a written notice that details the accident and everyone who was involved in the wreck. If someone in the other party contacts the plaintiff with bills associated with the incident, they must be sent to the insurance company and not paid until such times as fault is determined in the crash. If the driver does not have sufficient cover to meet the amount demanded by the other party’s claim, he or she must contact a car accident lawyer for options.
When an accident is reported, companies will send out liability investigators who have the job of determining who should be held accountable for the incident and what injuries and damages are covered by their client’s insurance policy.
The liability investigators will carry out extensive interviews with everyone involved, including witnesses, to determine what percentage of fault should be assigned to each party. They will take into account admissions of fault and police reports, and once their investigation is completed, the insurance company may process the claim.
Atlanta, GA Insurance Requirements
In Atlanta, Georgia, new drivers and drivers who have recently bought a vehicle should take out liability insurance. In our state, customers must choose an insurance policy that protects the person from the costs associated with one car accident injury, death, or the destruction of personal property.
In Georgia, drivers must have the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000 for any property damage for an accident
- $25,000 cover for one person’s bodily injury
- $50,000 for injury to multiple people
Drivers must keep their policy in effect by making insurance payments on time. In Georgia, if an insured driver goes ten days without insurance, the vehicle registration will be suspended, and the car will be illegal to drive on our roads. Driving without a valid registration is considered a misdemeanor, and it can lead to the car being impounded.
That state has a “fault” system when it comes to determining liability and insurance cover after an accident. What this means is that the responsible driver is liable for any property damage or personal injury that occurs as a result of an accident.
Many drivers choose to purchase underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance as a way to protect themselves in the event that an underinsured driver causes a car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, and is unable to afford the liability. It should be noted that state law dictates that for the client to receive compensation from an underinsured motorist policy, the at-fault party’s insurance limits must be reached.
Understanding a Victim’s Rights
Once investigators determine who is at fault for the accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay for medical bills and property damage.
The injured person may be able to sue the at-fault party, and the jury will determine the amount of compensation by weighing up lost wages, medical expenses, and the plaintiff’s pain and suffering incurred as a result of the accident. Our personal injury lawyers will be able to help you determine the best course of action for your claim. Drivers may also be able to sue, to repair, or replace their property that was damaged during the crash.
In Georgia, if a driver is 50 percent or more responsible for the incident, he or she may not recover losses. Each party should seek legal counsel to determine whether or not a lawsuit is a way forward for their case.
The Georgia statute of limitations allows parties involved in a car accident to bring claims forward up to two years after the injury and four years after property damage, however, drivers should decide quickly if they want to sue the other party involved in the crash so that their insurance provider and Atlanta car accident lawyer can assist with a favorable outcome for compensation.
How Long Does It Take to Conclude a Case?
It is almost impossible to say how long it can take to conclude such cases, as lawyers cannot predict what will happen in any given accident claims case. Each case is unique, and there is a broad variety of variables that affect how long it may take to achieve favorable results. As a result, victims are advised to be wary of lawyers that make promises about the amount of compensation they could recover or how quickly a settlement may be reached in a case.
Factors that could affect the timeline of a case include:
- Whether or not a pre-settlement can be reached
- Whether or not the defendant or his or her insurance company will accept or dispute liability
- Whether a lawsuit has yet been filed
- Whether the case goes to trial
- Whether the case involves complex factual issues or more than one, the defendant
- Whether there are appeals to higher courts
There are times when an attorney can reach a pre-suit settlement within a few months of a case, but if the case has to go to court, it may not be settled or even go to trial for several years, even with the benefit of an experienced car accident lawyer.
Potential Claims for Car Accidents
Under Georgia law, an accident can give rise to a number of potential claims. Some of the most common claims include:
- Claims against drivers that cause accidents by speeding or driving while distracted
- Claims of wrongful death or injury against an at-fault or negligent driver
- Dram shop liability claims against a company that unlawfully served or sold alcohol to an underage driver or an adult who was already intoxicated
- Punitive damage claims against drunk drivers
- Vicarious liability claims against the employer of an at-fault negligent driver under the state’s respondeat superior
- Underinsured motorist claims where the negligent driver does not have car insurance, or it is a case of a hit and run incident
- Negligent entrustment claims against the at-fault car’s owner
- Claims of vicarious liability against the at-fault driver under the doctrine of family purpose
- Claims against private businesses or government entities responsible for malfunctioning or negligently maintained traffic control devices
- Claims against the police department for reckless misconduct during a high-speed car chase
- Product liability claims against the manufacturers of tires who produced a defective car tire
- Claims against careless road construction workers who managed to create hazardous conditions on the road
- Claims against people or companies that are responsible for failing to remove or dropping hazardous debris on the roads
- Claims against entities for other dangerous road conditions or unsafe road designs
What Type of Damages Can Be Claimed for an Accident?
The two most common types of damages that can be claimed in the event of a Georgia crash are:
- Damages for pain and suffering – this is the anguish and anxiety that comes with suffering a bodily injury. It is a hidden burden that can be detrimental to a victim’s mental health and can bring with it depression, panic attacks, severe anxiety, lack of sleep, and a severe impact on the person’s day-to-day life and activities.
- Damages for medical costs, any necessary medical equipment, loss of property, and loss of wages.
How Do Courts Compensate for a Victim’s Pain and Suffering?
The state of Georgia treats a victim’s pain and suffering as acute physical and emotional trauma. The distress that a person endures after a car accident is mentally exhausting. Further, if physical injuries are sustained, and the victim has to be hospitalized and then undergo rehabilitation therapy, their medical costs may continue to rise, and this inconvenience along with the possible loss of wages adds to the victim’s anxiety and stress, potentially enhancing pain and suffering. All of these factors are taken into consideration when assessing and determining compensation.
Is There a Cap on Damages for Pain and Suffering as a Result of a Car Crash?
Our state does not place a cap on awarded damages for a car accident victim’s pain and suffering. Since the cause of the victim’s pain and suffering stems from both emotional distress and the physical pain of the injuries, the amount of compensation a person may be awarded for his or her pain and suffering is often a testament to an experienced car accident lawyer and the lawyer’s ability to build a solid case.
Damages Are Not Limited to the Amount of Liability Insurance That Covers the At-Fault Driver or His or Her Vehicle
It is important to note that the case is against the at-fault driver and not his or her insurance provider. The amount of insurance that is available to the negligent driver does not impose a limit on how much damages the victim can seek in his or her case.
The amount and availability of liability insurance may not be mentioned at a trial since the evidence is deemed inadmissible and irrelevant according to state law.
The jury will not be privy to how much insurance an at-fault driver has, and assuming that the defendant is found to be responsible for the crash, the jury must consider only the severity, amount, and type of injuries and damages suffered by the victim when determining how much compensation to award the plaintiff. The verdict may or may not exceed the amount of liability insurance that is available to the defendant. Should the verdict indeed exceed the limits, then the defendant will be liable for paying that portion that is not covered or paid by the insurance provider.
How Does a Lawyer Prove the At-Fault Driver Was Negligent?
If the accident was the fault of another driver, it is the responsibility of the car accident lawyer to build a solid case against the negligent driver. An experienced car accident lawyer will collect the necessary accident evidence which is required to clearly prove, without a doubt, that the other driver was reckless or negligent in operating their car, and is therefore directly responsible for the plaintiff’s damages and injuries.
Negligence is a term that refers to the driver’s failure to meet the required standard level of responsibility on our roads and exhibit cautious behavior when operating his or her vehicle. Negligence may include failure to pay proper attention when behind the wheel to ensure all other road user’s and pedestrian’s safety.
This is a particularly important point, considering the increase in technology in recent years and the number of distracted drivers on our roads.
Typically, Atlanta car accident lawyers strive to discover the following sorts of negligence in proving a client’s case:
- Talking on a phone
- Texting while driving
- Drinking while behind the wheel
- Eating while driving
- Using a media player or listening to the car radio and not concentrating on the road
- Following or programming a GPS
What to Do After an Atlanta Car Accident?
Once a car crash has been settled, drivers may still have a few issues that should be addressed regarding their car. If traffic-related charges necessitate that the state’s Department of Driver Services place points on any of the involved driver’s license, drivers may require more information on how to restore driving privileges. Furthermore, drivers may need to adhere to any court decisions, such as having to attend a driver’s education class or serve community service hours.
Both companies and drivers that are involved in a crash may appeal a court’s decision, but it should be noted that some appealed cases may only be heard at the discretion of the higher court judge. Also, appealing a case is not a guarantee that the unsatisfied party will win; however, having a skilled car accident lawyer is one way to be sure your case is handled correctly the first time.
Another point to note is that drivers should not immediately assume that their insurance premiums will increase after a car crash, even if they are the at-fault party. Many insurance companies offer accident forgiveness and make use of factors such as safe driving histories and customer loyalty to determine how a client’s rates may be affected by the incident. No matter what the outcome of the crash may be, drivers are urged to find ways to protect their car from any future damage and to talk with their insurance provider about ways to improve cover.
Contact Bethune Law Firm Today
The experienced car accident lawyer at Bethune Law Firm serves the Atlanta area of Georgia. Terrence R. Bethune has helped many injured car crash victims recover fair compensation. Navigating the legal process is a complex and daunting task, and a skilled car accident lawyer will handle insurance providers, so you don’t have to after a stressful car accident. An experienced car accident lawyer at Bethune Law Firm will seek the recovery of your compensation while you concentrate on recovering from the ordeal.