Motor vehicle accidents can be life-altering events, leaving victims with physical injuries, emotional trauma, and financial burdens. In the state of Georgia, knowing how to navigate the legal system after a car accident is crucial. Understanding Georgia car accident laws, the first steps to take as a victim, and the advantages of hiring a lawyer can help ensure you receive the compensation and justice you deserve.
First Steps to Take after a Car Accident in Georgia
- Ensure Safety and Seek Medical Attention
Your safety and well-being should be your top priorities after a car accident. If you can, move to a safe location to avoid further harm, turn on hazard lights, and call 911 to request medical assistance and law enforcement. Seek immediate medical attention, even if you believe your injuries are minor. Injuries can worsen over time, and having a medical record can be vital for future legal claims.
- Document the Scene
Gathering evidence is crucial for building a strong case. Use your smartphone or a camera to take photos and videos of the accident scene, including vehicle damage, road conditions, weather, and any visible injuries. Collect the contact information of witnesses and exchange insurance and contact details with other involved parties.
- File a Police Report
In Georgia, it is mandatory to report an accident to the police if there are injuries, fatalities, or property damage exceeding $500. A police report is an official document that can provide valuable information for your insurance claim and potential legal action.
- Notify Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident and initiate the claims process. Be honest and provide accurate information. You have a contractual obligation to cooperate with your insurer, and failure to do so may affect your coverage.
Understanding Georgia Car Accident Laws
- Comparative Fault System
Georgia follows a modified comparative fault system, meaning that multiple parties can share fault for an accident. Under this system, a victim’s compensation is reduced by the percentage of their fault. However, if you are found to be 50 percent or more at fault, you may be ineligible to receive any compensation.
- Statute of Limitations
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is typically two years from the date of the accident. For property damage claims, the limit is four years. Failing to file within this time frame could result in your case being dismissed.
- Minimum Insurance Requirements
Georgia law mandates that all drivers have liability insurance with minimum coverage amounts. These limits are $25,000 for bodily injury per person, $50,000 for bodily injury per accident, and $25,000 for property damage. It’s essential to understand these minimums, as insurance coverage plays a significant role in securing compensation for victims.
- No-Fault Insurance
Georgia is not a no-fault insurance state, which means that injured parties can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You may also have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party if your injuries are severe enough to meet certain criteria.
The Role of Legal Representation
- Why Hire a Lawyer?
Hiring an experienced car accident attorney in Georgia can significantly benefit victims in several ways:
- Legal Expertise: Lawyers are well-versed in Georgia car accident laws and can guide you through the complexities of the legal system.
- Investigation and Evidence: Attorneys can conduct thorough investigations to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and reconstruct the accident, helping establish liability.
- Negotiations: Lawyers can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to secure a fair settlement that covers medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
- Litigation: If negotiations fail, a lawyer can file a lawsuit and represent you in court. They will ensure that all necessary legal documents are filed correctly and that your case is presented effectively.
- Determining Fault
Proving fault in a car accident is essential to secure compensation. Lawyers use their knowledge of Georgia law, accident reconstruction experts, and other resources to establish liability. They will also handle any disputes from the other party or their insurance company regarding fault.
- Maximizing Compensation
Car accident victims often underestimate the full extent of their damages. Lawyers can assess your case comprehensively, including both economic and non-economic damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. They will work to secure the maximum compensation possible.
- Dealing with Insurance Companies
Insurance companies are businesses, and their primary goal is to minimize payouts. When dealing with them directly, victims may face challenges in obtaining a fair settlement. Attorneys understand the tactics used by insurance adjusters and can counteract them to protect your interests.
While most personal injury attorneys can do a fine job of handling a basic car accident claim, wrecks involving tractor-trailers, log trucks, dump trucks, wreckers, and even trucks pulling flatbed trailers are different. Commercial trucks, vans, and tractor-trailers are insured policies that need an experienced lawyer to discover all of the various insurance policies involved in repairing your vehicle and settling your claim. At Lober & Dobson, LLC, we have handled dozens of tractor-trailer wreck claims in five states. We work with the accident reconstruction experts and investigators necessary to win your case.
Being a victim of a car accident can be a traumatic and life-altering experience. Knowing the first steps to take after an accident, understanding Georgia car accident laws, and the benefits of hiring a lawyer is essential in seeking justice and fair compensation. By acting promptly, seeking legal guidance, and ensuring your rights are protected, you can navigate the legal system effectively and work towards rebuilding your life after a car accident.
Our auto accident attorneys can help you find peace of mind after your car wreck so that you can move forward with your life. Contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case in detail and find out whether or not you have options after your car accident in Georgia.
By Jennifer LaCharite, Costa Consultants International