After you or a loved one is injured in car accident in Atlanta or elsewhere in Georgia, you will have many questions about your legal rights and your options for recovering for your losses. To help you get a better understanding, the lawyers of James M. Poe, P.C., provide you with the following answers to questions that often arise in these cases. We hope they are useful to you.
However, these FAQs are not intended to substitute for one-on-one consultation with an experienced attorney. To discuss the specific, unique facts of your own auto accident case, please contact us today for a free consultation.
Car Accident FAQs
Yes, you should take immediate steps to get a copy of the accident report that was filed after your accident. This report will contain important information and serve as a building block in your case.
For example, the accident report will contain the full names, driver’s license numbers, auto insurance providers and contact information of all drivers who were involved in the crash. It will also contain witness contact information.
The law enforcement officer who prepared the report will diagram how the officer believed the accident occurred and may include other important observations of the accident scene. The report also will state whether the other driver was cited for traffic violations.
You can obtain a copy of the accident report by going to the local law enforcement agency that prepared it or by going online and ordering a copy through BuyCrash.com, which has partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation to provide these reports.
If you discover mistakes in the report, you should contact the officer who prepared it and ask for corrections to be made.
If you would prefer, a member of our legal team can help you to obtain a copy of this report.
If another driver caused your crash, and the driver’s auto insurance company has accepted liability, that company should pay for the repair or replacement of your vehicle as well as for a car rental you may need in the interim.
You can expect an insurance adjuster to assess the damage to your car. If the adjuster determines that it would be better off paying to replace your car rather than repairing it, the adjuster will declare your car to be “totaled.” You will be entitled to the fair market value of your car. This amount typically is based on a source such as the Kelley Blue Book.
To be prepared for this discussion you need to locate comparable cars in your area in case you want to dispute the value the insurance company attempts to assign your vehicle. Keep in mind: The insurer will have to pay only up to the limits of the driver’s liability coverage. So, if you are driving a rental car, you will be reducing the amount you will receive to replace your vehicle.
If the insurance company offers to instead repair your car, the company will usually get an estimate of the cost of the work that needs to be done. If you choose to have the work done by a different mechanic or body shop at a higher cost, the insurer does not have to pay this amount or the difference between your estimate and its own estimate. However, this is a negotiable issue in the settlement of your claim.
Even if the insurer pays to repair your vehicle, the insurer is still required to cover any diminished value. This amount represents the difference between your car’s pre-accident and post-accident value. It is important to remember that a wrecked but repaired vehicle generally is less valuable than a comparable vehicle that has not been in a wreck.
Additionally, under Georgia law, the insurer will need to cover any reasonable costs that you incur due to the loss of use of your vehicle, including reimbursing you for all rental costs.
If you have purchased uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, you can and should seek compensation through that policy to cover your losses.
Even though all drivers in Georgia are required by law to carry liability coverage – insurance that pays for losses that the insured driver causes in a crash – it is an unfortunate fact that many Georgia drivers lack this mandatory coverage.
Unless you have rejected UM coverage for bodily injury and/or property damage in writing, you should have a policy that will cover your losses up to the policy’s limits when such a situation arises. The total amount of coverage will depend on the type of UM policy you have purchased and whether there are policies available that can be “stacked.”
This is one of the most complicated areas of Georgia auto accident law. It is important to work with an attorney who understands how uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can apply for you and insure that you receive full compensation.
The answer depends on the degree to which you contributed to the crash. This is because Georgia is a modified comparative fault state.
To recover under Georgia law, your negligence must first be less than 50 percent of the cause of the wreck.
For instance, if a car crash caused you to suffer what a jury found to be $100,000 in damages, but you were 50 percent or more at fault, you would be barred from recovering. However, if you were only 40 percent at fault, you could still recover damages. The jury would be instructed to reduce your damages. To reflect your contributory negligence – a 40 percent reduction would leave a recovery of $60,000.
It is important to have an attorney thoroughly review the facts of your case and provide a frank and experienced evaluation of the likely jury assessment of comparative fault.
If you want to know: can I sue the bar that served the drunk driver who hit my car? an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney can help. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be possible to pursue a “dram shop” claim against both the drunk driver who hit you and the establishment that served the driver.
To recover from the bar in this scenario, you would need to show that the establishment knowingly furnished alcohol to a person who was noticeably intoxicated at the time, and that the establishment did so while knowing the person would soon be driving a motor vehicle.
You would also need to show that the establishment’s furnishing of the alcohol caused the injuries you suffered.
Dram shop claims also can be pursued if the driver who was served alcohol was under age 21 or if the provider of the alcohol was a “social host” rather than a business.
You need an experienced attorney to identify and pursue the proper parties who can be liable for the car crash in such circumstances.
In general, you will have two years from the date of the accident giving rise to your injuries in which to file a legal claim. This is known as Georgia’s statute of limitations.
In some very narrow instances, the statute of limitations may be suspended or “tolled.” For instance, tolling applies when the injured party is a minor or suffers from a condition that is considered to be a “legal incompetence.”
Because analysis of time limits arising from product liability issue may also be involved, it is important to consult with a car accident attorney as soon as reasonably possible after a crash. You do not want to allow a delay in taking action to keep you from recovering funds that can play a crucial role in your recovery.
If you want to know do you need a lawyer after a settlement offer: Yes. You should consult with an attorney before you accept a settlement offer. The attorney can provide an honest assessment of whether the insurer’s offer will fairly compensate you.
Many factors go into determining the value of a car accident claim. Past and future medical expenses must be calculated as well as lost wages and future diminished earning capacity. A car accident claim should also take into consideration the pain and suffering you have experienced.
This value can only be determined after a careful and thorough review of all records in your case as well as consultation with qualified experts.
A lawyer will undertake all of these steps in order to protect your rights and interests. The attorney may then advise you to either accept the settlement offer or negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
To learn more about the many other services that an attorney can provide you after a car accident, please contact the law firm of James M. Poe, P.C.