Car accidents are unfortunately a common occurrence in Georgia, specifically those areas that surround Atlanta. With heavy traffic coming in and out of Atlanta due to I-75, I-285 and many others, many accidents can be severe and sometimes, even fatal.
If you've been in an accident, below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) that have been asked by motorists involved in automobile accidents. If you have any questions about your personal injury claim, contact us today at 770-594-1777.
1. What should I do if I'm in a car accident?
When you're involved in a car accident, the first thing is to not leave the scene of the accident. Leaving the scene of the accident could result in you being criminally prosecuted. Your first step is to ensure you are safe and uninjured. Then, check on others safely and call an ambulance if someone is injured. Make sure when you call, tell the operator your name, location, and how many people and cars were involved in the accident and how many are injured. Try to give an accurate location of where the crash occurred. When possible, make sure your car is not creating a hazard to other motorists who are moving by. If you cannot move your car, turn on your hazards or place your hood or trunk up.
Make sure to collect the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the others involved in the accident, and of any potential witnesses. It would also be a good idea to take pictures of damage to all involved cars, injuries to persons, skid marks, and road obstructions.
Remember, the most important thing is your safety. Never jeopardize that.
2. Once the police arrive on scene, what should I say to them?
When involved in a car accident, it's best to limit yourself to discussing just the facts of the accident. Under no circumstances should you tell the police that you are to blame for the accident or make accusations as to who is to blame.
3. How soon after the accident should I get a lawyer?
Immediately. You should talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible – the reason is very simple: After an accident, the facts are still fresh and evidence to the accident is still viable. Over time, the facts may diminish as memories start to blur and evidence disappears.
4. Should I contact my insurance company and notify them about the accident?
Yes, you should notify your insurance company of the accident as soon after as you can. Many insurance companies require their policyholders to urgently report all car accidents once they occur. If you fail to report in a timely manner, it can result in a loss of coverage for the accident. However, when talking to your insurance company you should only provide the facts of the accident. Anything other than that should come directly from your attorney.
5. Should I notify the other driver's insurance company of the accident?
No, you are not obligated to talk to the other driver's insurance company about the accident. Talking to the other insurance company could result in your statements being used against you in negotiations for settlement or litigation.
What if they want to speak with me?
You are not required to speak with the other driver's insurance company. Simply decline to speak with them and give them the name of your lawyer and their contact information. Speaking with them could cause liability of the accident to be unclear or jeopardize your case.
What if they are asking for medical records?
Your medical records should not be given to the other driver's insurance, nor should you give them a medical authorization. Doing so might allow them to obtain any and all medical records, which could be used later against you in negotiations for settlement or litigation.
They're asking for certain forms to be filled out, should I?
If the other driver's insurance company is asking for you to complete certain forms surrounding the accident, you are under no obligation to cooperate with them. If you fill out these forms without the consultation of a personal injury attorney, those documents may be later used against you if the case has to be litigated.
6. What if the other driver does not have insurance?
Statistics shows that 11.7% LINK of all Georgia drivers' do not have auto insurance. If you're in an accident with a driver who is uninsured, you might mistakenly think that you will not be able to recover damages. In actuality, you could seek compensation from your own insurance company if you have underinsured and uninsured motorists coverage. In the absence of underinsured and uninsured motorists coverage, the only possible remedy is to sue the other driver, but it's unlikely you'll recover because those who do not have insurance most likely do not have many valuable assets.
7. Should I go to the doctor after the accident?
To be on the safe side, you should always go see your doctor after a car accident, even if you're feeling fine or just a little sore. Some injuries do not manifest themselves until after the accident. When you go to see the doctor, make sure to mention any complaint that you may have. If you did not cause the accident, you are allowed to seek and receive compensation for any medical expenses you might have incurred after the collision.
8. How do I obtain a copy of the police report?
Anyone involved in the accident has a right to obtain a copy of the police report. It typically takes three to five business days after the accident and there are several ways to obtain the report depending on the county. The report can be obtained either online, through a written request to mail the report, or by going to the precinct.
9. How do I go about having my car repaired?
Depending on the type of coverage you carry with your auto insurance, you might be able to contact your own insurance about repairing your car. If you have the right coverage, they should pay the repairs to your automobile and will later seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver's insurance company.
What if I need a rental car while my car is being repaired?
Normally, the at-fault driver's insurance company should supply you with a rental car if your vehicle has to be repaired due to the accident. However, if you have rental car coverage in your insurance policy, you should contact your insurance about receiving a rental car through them and let them seek reimbursement from the other driver's insurance company.
10. How long do I have to file a claim for my car accident?
Every state has a statute of limitation, which means there is a prescribed time to which certain kinds of legal actions can be brought. In the state of Georgia, the statute of limitations is 2 years (O.C.G.A. §9-3-33). The time starts to run on the date of the accident. However, if a minor is injured or person under the age of 18, then the two years does not start to run until the minor is either married or has turned 18. Once the minor has married or turned 18, the statute of limitations will begin to run.
11. What may I be entitled to after my accident?
In a personal injury case, the value involves many factors and usually dependent on the facts of each case. A plaintiff in a personal injury case can recover compensatory damages. Some of those damages include but are not limited to lost wages, medical expenses, cost of travel for healthcare, pharmaceutical needs, pain and suffering, and anxiety of being in a car accident.
12. What will it cost for me to consult with an attorney about my potential case?
Nothing. We provide a free consultation by phone or in person at our office or as otherwise arranged. We gather as much preliminary information as possible about your legal issue and outline our sense of the work involved to achieve the best possible outcome.
13. What determines the amount of my settlement?
Many factors can affect settlement amounts and trial verdicts such as:
- Whether the other person was totally or only partially responsible for the accident or injury
- Value of losses directly resulting from the injury, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering
- Value of future losses stemming from the accident, such as loss of income earning potential, future medical expenses, future pain and suffering, and future interference with one's normal daily activities
- Other factors such as your age, the extent of any scarring or disfigurement, mental or emotional injury, and embarrassment caused by the injury.
14. How are damages recovered?
There are two ways to recover damages: by settlement or by trial.
Most cases are settled before reaching trial. Settlement can occur at any time as long as all parties agree to and understand the terms of the settlement. State and Federal courts also offer parties the choice of a trial, either before a judge or by jury. A case must be tried by a jury if even one of the parties requests it.
15. How long will it take if my case goes to trial?
Timing depends on many circumstances, such as the number of parties, the complexity of a case, and each court's “backlog” of cases. Generally, a case reaches the trial calendar within six months to one year after the suit is filed.
16. What will a Lawyer do at the beginning of my case?
A lawyer will start investigating the facts of your case by obtaining police reports, medical records, insurance information, and witness statements. Such information is needed to prove that the other party was at fault and to estimate damages for monetary compensation.
A lawyer will then make a formal claim against the parties at fault, usually through their insurance companies.
17. What if the Insurance Company offers me money to settle?
An insurance company may offer you money to settle your claim. While this may be tempting, be careful. Insurance adjusters could take advantage of an accident victim who is not represented by an attorney. If you accept money from the insurance company and sign a release, you could forfeit your right to file a claim or sue.
To protect yourself, hire a lawyer and do not sign anything without a lawyer's review.