The very first step that needs to be done after an accident is to call the police. Having a police report means you have a record that someone else was liable for an accident that happened on a particular day, which can definitely help your case.
After that, go to the hospital or seek treatment immediately if you’re injured. The name of the game is documentation; if we get in front of a jury, we’ll have to prove that there were injuries, and those injuries were caused by this accident. Your medical records need to be able to show that you were injured on this day, what was injured, and the actions you took to treat that injury. It starts with your first day of treatment to demonstrate you were injured from the particular event, which in this case, is a car accident. Typically, it needs to be a hospital record or a doctor you visited in close proximity to the date on which you were injured.
In addition to getting a police report and promptly starting treatment, you want to take pictures of your car and any injuries, bruises, bleeding, cuts, or things of that nature. After that, the next steps would be seeking an attorney and continuing any needed treatment of the injuries you sustained in the accident.
If you’re partially at fault for an accident, you may still have a case. There are two different systems that most states use: comparative negligence and contributory negligence. Contributory negligence means that if a person has contributed any negligence in the event, then they will be barred from recovery. In Georgia, we use a modified comparative negligence approach, which means you can still receive compensation for your injuries, even if you are partially at fault, as long as you are not more than 49 percent at fault for the accident.
This means, an insurance company or a jury can find that an injured party was 51 percent at fault, and they are still able to recover. For example, let’s say the verdict is $100,000 and a jury finds that my client was 51 percent at fault, under Georgia law, my client would receive $51,000, or 51 percent of $100,000. In states that use the comparative negligence approach, even if you’re only one percent at fault, you’re out of luck.
Many times, an insurance company may arbitrarily say they’re not going to pay anything on a claim, based on their belief that an injured victim was 50 percent at fault. They use this tactic often with non-represented individuals, and even represented individuals, to prevent them from seeking compensation for their injuries. Many times, we’ve been able to work with an insurance company and get a client’s fault, that was originally at 50 percent and even 100 percent, down to little to no fault assigned at all. This can only be done by conducting a thorough investigation.
That being said, I would advise you to never take the insurance company’s word for what they believe your fault apportionment was when you don’t believe you caused an accident. You should always push back to get the recovery that you deserve.
Generally, the statute of limitations for a car accident will be two years after the date of the accident. If you got into a car accident on January 1, 2020, you would need to have your lawsuit filed by January 1, 2022, if you want to recover from that particular accident.
If you don’t get it filed by that time limit, there is a law that may help in getting the statute of limitations pushed back further from the date of the accident. In some cases, the date that the lawsuit needs to be filed on can be pushed back to the date of the citation disposition for your accident. The key to this situation is that the at-fault party must have been issued a citation. If, for example, your accident was on January 1, 2020, and the at-fault party went to court on March 1, 2020, for their citation, then you may be able to file your lawsuit by March 1, 2022.
It can be difficult to find out when a disposition took place, so it’s always better to play it safe. Use the rule of thumb and file by two years from the date of the accident.
When the insurance company offers you an initial settlement, ask yourself why they are trying to get you to settle so quickly. Most of the time, they are trying to get you to settle for much less than your case is worth. Many times, potential clients have told me the insurance company offered made them an offer to settle their case, even though they are still injured, and still treating for their injuries with no end in sight. I can say that their case is almost always worth much more than what the insurance company offered them.
A client, for whatever reason, might go ahead and take the insurance company’s bad offer, not knowing that they left a lot on the table, Compensation that they were legally owed. The insurance companies offer is not just supposed to cover your current medical bills, but it should also help with your future medical bills, your current and future pain and suffering and your loss of wages. So if you’re still finishing two or three months of physical therapy and they’re offering you $10,000, is that really enough to cover your pain and suffering on top of your medical bills? What did you endure during those months of treatment? How many things in your life were made more difficult? Also, due to that treatment, how much time did you have to take off work? How much money did you lose from work?
Those are all of the things you’re missing out on if you just take their offer of $10,000 without really understanding what that money is supposed to cover. In most cases, the money they offer you at the beginning of the case, whether before your treatment, halfway through your treatment, or even at the end of your treatment, won’t be enough to cover what it should have covered. Ask yourself what’s fair for what you went through. Seeing these cases every day, we know the answers to these questions.
For more information on Steps to File an Auto Accident Claim in Georgia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling our firm.