Know Your Rights When Navigating the Aftermath of a Car Accident
When you’ve been in a car accident, it can sometimes feel like you have to become a legal expert overnight. Things you may have never thought about before — like statutes of limitations, how fault is determined, and the insurance claims process – can suddenly have a major impact on your daily life and your finances.
It’s useful to have a baseline understanding of Georgia car accident laws so that you can know your rights as a victim and make sure you’re not being taken advantage of.
But you also should not feel like you have to do it all on your own.
A great Dunwoody car accident attorney can work with you not just on a potential court case, but at every step of the post-car accident journey.
Here are some of the most important things to consider when navigating the aftermath of a car accident, and the ways a lawyer can help you through the process:
Liability in Car Accidents
In Georgia, car accident liability is determined through a “fault-based” system. Essentially, this means that the at-fault driver’s insurance company is the first place you will look to for compensation for injuries and property damage.
But how is it determined who is at fault in an accident? In general, someone is considered at fault if they acted negligently or recklessly, or if they broke a law. This could be anything from violating traffic laws to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to driving while distracted.
Georgia also has something called comparative negligence, which allows drivers to recover damages in an accident even if they were partially at fault.
As long as you are determined to be less at fault than the other responsible parties, you can collect damages based on the percentage of responsibility.
For example, if the court decides you were 40% at fault in an accident with $100,000 in damages, you could collect $60,000.
If, however, the court decides you are 51% at fault in the accident, you would not be able to collect any damages, because you are more at fault than the other involved parties.
Insurance Requirements for Car Accidents
All Georgia drivers are required by law to have a minimum amount of liability insurance (insurance that helps pay damages in an accident where you’re ruled to be at fault). The minimum requirements are:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 bodily injury liability per incident
- $25,000 property damage liability per incident
Unfortunately, not everyone follows this law. In some cases, you may end up in an accident with an uninsured motorist. In other cases, the accident damages may exceed the amount of liability insurance the at-fault driver has purchased.
In these situations, it can be useful to have uninsured motorist coverage as part of your own insurance plan.
This coverage can fill in the gaps when the other driver in the accident doesn’t have the money to pay for damages out of pocket or the insurance coverage they would need to get the damages paid for.
Statute of Limitations for Georgia Car Accident Claims
In most Georgia car accident cases, you have two years from the date of the incident to file a claim. This applies to personal injury, wrongful death, and other civil cases around a car accident.
The statute of limitations is strictly followed in most cases, though there are a few exceptions that allow “tolling,” or an extension to the statute of limitations.
These exceptions could include mental incapacity, fraud, or the discovery of a medical issue that could not have been reasonably discovered within the two-year period.
If the injured person in the accident was under the age of 18, this could also lead to an extended statute of limitations.
Keep in mind that the state statute of limitations does not necessarily apply to insurance claims. Most insurance companies will deny claims that are not submitted in a timely manner, so you should not wait to report an accident if you’re physically able to do so.
Damages and Compensation for Car Accident Victims
There are a variety of different damages available to victims of vehicle accidents in the state of Georgia. Several of these types of damages are difficult to quantify, so working with an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine how much compensation you deserve.
If your vehicle was damaged, you may receive compensation for the repair costs and for the cost of a rental while you’re waiting on those repairs.
If you’re unable to get to work because of the damaged vehicle, you can also be compensated for those lost wages.
If you’re injured in an accident that was not your fault, you’re entitled to compensation for any past and future medical expenses related to the accident injury. This could include doctors’ appointments, surgeries and treatments, and medication.
And because car accidents are often traumatic, you may also receive compensation for pain and suffering.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Georgia
After you’ve been in a car or truck accident, your first priority should be getting yourself to safety. If you’re in a dangerous location, or if you need immediate medical attention, nothing else is nearly as important as your wellbeing.
But if you’re safely able to do so, there are certain steps you can take immediately after an accident that will help you with the claims process and everything that may come after:
- Call the police. Georgia law requires drivers to report any accident resulting in an injury or $500 or more of damage. Plus, filing a police report can help strengthen your insurance claim.
- Gather information at the scene, including the exact location of the accident, the names of any nearby businesses that may have picked up security camera footage of the accident, the accounts of witnesses or other involved parties, and photos of any damage to vehicles or other property.
- Collect the contact and insurance information of every person involved in the accident.
- Report the accident to your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company, and begin the process of filing a claim.
- If you think you have been injured in the accident, visit the doctor as soon as possible. Make sure to keep a file with all your bills and medical records, too.
- Consult with a lawyer as soon as you’re able. They can help you make a game plan before talking to insurance adjusters, so you have the best possible chance of getting your claim approved. They can also help you stay organized and let you know what documentation you should be gathering, from vehicle repair bills to medical information to police reports.
And if all these steps are overwhelming, remember that it’s OK to ask for help.
If you hire a lawyer who’s committed to helping you throughout every step of the process, they can take on tasks like talking to insurance on your behalf, gathering necessary records, and negotiating for more damages.
Need for Legal Representation in Car Accident Cases
Many people will wait to talk to a lawyer until after their insurance claim gets denied or they don’t get the compensation they were hoping for.
But the sooner you hire legal compensation, the better they’ll be able to advise you throughout the entire process. Plus, the more familiar they are with your case from the very beginning, the better prepared they’ll be to argue for you in court if necessary.
Just keep in mind that not all car accident Dunwoody attorneys have car accident experience, and not all lawyers will give your case the time and attention it deserves.
If you work with a big box lawyer — like the ones you see advertised on TV — it’s easy for your needs to get lost in the shuffle of their huge client roster. And even if the heads of these law firms are experienced personal injury lawyers, you may never get to speak directly with the lawyer who’s in charge of your case.
If you’re looking for a local, Dunwoody lawyer who’s experienced with car accident law and will personally handle all the details of your case, look no further than Nick Martin.
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