Steps to Take Following a Car Accident
If you have been involved in a car accident in Atlanta, it is important to see if anyone requires immediate medical attention. If you, the other driver, and/or bystanders are injured, contact 911 immediately and request an ambulance. Refrain from rendering aid unless you are trained, and they face life-threatening injuries.
Remove your car and any large debris from the roadway if possible. Determine if any bystanders witnessed the accident. This can include pedestrians as well as other drivers that may have stopped to render aid. Get their names and contact information. Exchange car insurance information with the other drivers involved in the car accident.
Cooperate with police and any medical personnel responding to the scene. Do not admit fault for the accident and say as little as possible. If you admit fault your statement may be used against you. Ask the responding officer how to obtain a copy of the accident report.
Take photos of the accident scene as well as the damage to the vehicles. If you are injured but do not require medical attention at the scene of the accident, consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. Report the symptoms you are experiencing to your medical professional. After your have received medical treatment, notify your insurance company of the accident. Avoid making any admission of fault or stating anything beyond the facts of what occurred. Contact
an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and discuss your options.
Georgia is an “At-Fault” State
Georgia car accident laws operate on a fault-based system. This means that the driver found to be “at-fault” for causing the car accident must pay for any damages he or she causes. In most cases this means that the at-fault driver’s car insurance company will pay for the damages up to the policy limits.
Determining fault is not always clear cut. If you are attempting to settle your case with the insurance company, the insurance adjuster will make a fault determination. If you go to trial, the jury will assign a percentage of fault to each driver for the car accident. It is possible, however, that the other driver could be more at-fault for the accident and that the damages that you receive are reduced based on your responsibility for the accident. This concept is known as “comparative negligence.”
Georgia Follows a Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
Georgia uses a type of comparative negligence standard in car accident cases. Comparative negligence means that the accident victim’s damages award is reduced based on the percentage that he or she is found to be at-fault for the car accident.
The insurance adjuster or jury will start by calculating the amount of damages that you are entitled to. This can include current and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
For example, suppose you are involved in a car accident in Georgia. You sue the other driver and his insurance company. The jury determines that you should be awarded $50,000. But the jury also finds that you were 20% responsible for the accident. Your award is reduced by $10,000 (20% of $50,000), leaving you with $40,000.
Georgia’s comparative negligence rule is a little different. Georgia has a “modified comparative negligence” rule. The rule is found in Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 51, Chapter 11, Section 7. With modified comparative negligence, someone that is injured in a car accident will not recover any damages if he or she is more than 50% at-fault for the accident.
So, returning to the example from above. The jury calculates your damages as $50,000 but finds that you were 55% at-fault for the accident. You will not be entitled to any damages. As long as you are less than 50% at-fault you can recover damages, but your award will be reduced by the percentage that you are found to be at-fault.
Minimum Liability Insurance Coverage in Georgia
Every motor vehicle in operation in Georgia must be covered by liability insurance. The minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage in Georgia are:
- $25,000 for property damage caused by the driver of the insured vehicle.
- $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person caused by the driver of the insured vehicle.
- $50,000 for total bodily injury or death liability caused by the driver of the insured vehicle.
It is not uncommon for damages in a car accident to exceed the minimum liability insurance coverage amounts. For this reason, drivers often purchase policies with higher coverage limits. Other options include purchasing collision coverage to reimburse you for damages to your vehicle. And uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. This insurance protects you if the other driver does not have enough insurance or no insurance policy to cover your losses.
Georgia Statute of Limitations
The Georgia statute of limitations lists the amount of time that a car accident victim has to file a lawsuit. If the victims fails to file a lawsuit by the deadline, then he or she will likely forfeit the right to collect damages. The deadline for filing a lawsuit to collect damages for injuries suffered in a car accident is 2 years from the date of the accident. The deadline for filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for property damage is 4 years from the date of the accident.
There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations. But as a general rule if you fail to file your lawsuit on time your case will be dismissed. Missing the deadline under the Georgia statute of limitations can have disastrous consequences for your case. An experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected.
Common Types of Damages in Atlanta Car Accident Cases
Unlike some states, Georgia does not have a cap on damage awards in personal injury cases with the exception of punitive damages. The state did have a cap previously, but it was determined to be unconstitutional. There are many different types of damages in Georgia car accident cases, but they all fall within three main categories.
Economic damages are those that are verifiable. In other words, these damages involve documentation that show the expenses incurred. Some examples of economic damages include:
- Medical Expenses. Medical expenses can include things like doctor visits, copays, hospital bills, physical therapy or chiropractic care, and medication. They can also include the costs of future and ongoing medical treatment.
- Lost income. You can recover damages for the time you missed from work due to the accident. You can also recover damages for permanent reductions in income. For example, having to accept a lower paying job because you can no longer perform the same job duties.
- Lost benefits. You may be entitled to compensation for lost vacation or sick time, or other paid time off.
- Property damages. Property damages include the costs of repairing personal property such as the money that you spend to repair your car following an accident.
Non-economic damages are those that are not immediately verifiable. They are subjective and the amounts are typically determined by a judge or jury. Some examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium. Proving non-economic damages can be difficult and complex. It is often necessary to retain a medical expert to demonstrate the extent of your suffering to a judge or jury. An experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer can help you determine and prove the amount of your non-economic damages.
Punitive damages are meant to punish. They are rarely awarded and generally require significant wrongdoing by the defendant. For example, if you are injured in a drunk driving accident the judge may order punitive damages to both punish the defendant and to deter others from committing similar offenses.
While Georgia does not have a cap on economic or non-economic damages, there is a cap on punitive damages. In Georgia, punitive damages are capped at $250,000.
How to Recover Damages in a Georgia Car Accident Case
If you have been injured in a car accident in Georgia, you have a few different options to try to recover damages. The first is to file a car accident claim with the insurance company. The insurance adjuster will review your claim and determine whether to offer you a settlement. The first settlement offer that you receive from the insurance company is usually a lowball offer. The insurance company attempts to limit their liability by taking advantage of someone that is not represented by an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer.
If the insurance company determines that you are more than 50% at-fault for the accident they will not settle with you. If you have collision coverage your insurance company will cover damages to your vehicle. You can also choose to file a lawsuit against the insurance company.
A lawsuit will usually name the other driver, his insurance company, and any third parties that were involved in the accident as defendants. Filing a lawsuit is often necessary when the insurance company is unwilling to budge on their offer, or they have denied your claim. By going to trial, you will have the burden of proving to the jury that the other driver was more than 50% at-fault for the car accident.
Another common reason that a car accident victim will file a lawsuit is to prevent the Georgia statute of limitations from expiring. Even if you plan on settling your case with the insurance company, you will want to file a lawsuit to preserve your right to go to trial in the event settlement negotiations fail.
To win at trial, you must prove that the other driver was negligent and more than 50% at-fault for the car accident. To prove negligence, you must show that the driver failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care which caused the car accident.
The Average Car Accident Settlement in Atlanta
Compensation in a car accident case depends on many factors. For example, the extent of your injuries and the impact that the car accident has on your daily life. You may be forced to miss time from work or may be permanently disabled. You might also be partially at-fault for the car accident. All these factors contribute to the car accident settlement that you can receive.
To determine what your case is worth and to learn your rights and options, contact
an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer today.
Types of Car Accident Cases that Our Firm Handles
Ahmad Injury Law has a proven track record of advocating on behalf of car accident victims. Some of the types of car accident cases that our firm regularly handles include:
- Rear-end accidents
- Distracted driving accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- And many more…