Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
If you suffered an injury in a car accident, you may have questions about your legal rights and whether you are entitled to compensation to cover the expenses resulting from the accident. Whether you were as a passenger, pedestrian or driver of another vehicle, an automobile accident may cause long-term consequences.
There may be medical bills, time away from work, and costs related to long-lasting injuries. If the negligent actions of another caused the accident, you may be able to work with a passionate personal injury attorney to obtain compensation for these costs.
But it is important to understand your legal rights before making any statements that could compromise your claim. So, it may be advisable to speak to an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer before proceeding.
Statute of Limitations in Atlanta Car Accident Cases
After suffering an injury, it is important to focus on recovery. However, it can be difficult to move forward when there are concerns about medical bills, lost income, and questions from insurance companies.
Georgia law limits the amount of time in which someone may file a lawsuit to seek compensation from a negligent driver. Typically, victims have two years from the date of their accident to file a claim for an injury.
Compensation May Be Available to Cover Costs
Those suffering injuries from a car accident may recover monetary awards referred to in legal terms as damages. These damages can provide compensation for economic harm as well as intangible harm.
Examples of economic damages include amounts to cover past and future medical bills, lost wages, reduced future earning capacity, damage to property, and the cost of accommodations needed to deal with the aftermath of the injury.
Examples of damages that may be available to compensate for the intangible losses include money for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life. A car accident attorney in Atlanta could assist in determining which damages might apply.
In order to recover damages in a personal injury claim – whether through settlement or a court judgment – you will need to present evidence. There are many pieces of evidence that you could use to help your case but not all of them are easy to acquire. For that reason, you should retain the services of a seasoned car accident attorney. We could use our past experiences and connections to help you collect evidence in an Atlanta car accident case.
What is Some Common Evidence in Car Accident Cases?
Before filing a claim, an attorney could gather evidence to illuminate the facts of the case, including any police reports. The police report might identify other evidence that law enforcement has already collected, such as photographs or dash cam footage. An attorney could look for this information with an open records request. Medical records can also provide valuable evidence at the outset of a case, such as listing treatment provided on the day of the accident and in the subsequent days, weeks, and months.
How the Circumstances Can Affect Evidence-Gathering
Gathering evidence can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Law enforcement typically conducts a more significant investigation into car accident cases that involve fatalities. In most fatality cases, the Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) is called out. They will conduct a detailed accident investigation and reconstruction that involves taking many photographs and measurements, much of which could be used as evidence.
For standard car accident cases where the significance of the injuries is not apparent at the time of the incident, the initial investigation may be brief and limited. It is not uncommon for the accident report or citation to be the only evidence obtained from the police. The accident’s severity, location, and investigating entities should be considered, as each factor can impact the extent of incident-related evidence to be uncovered.
What is the Process for Collecting Evidence?
The typical evidence collection process for car accident cases in Atlanta begins with us immediately submitting an open records request. This request asks the investigating entity, such as the police department or the Georgia State Patrol, to provide all the information they have. A preservation notice for accident-related information may also be sent to the defendant, particularly if they are a corporate entity or trucking company, although such a defendant is unlikely to turn over much of their evidence without a lawsuit. Regardless, it is important to put them notice of the claim so that they preserve the evidence. Once a lawsuit is filed, we could force them to provide that evidence.
The Timeframe for Collecting and Presenting Evidence
Collecting evidence to present in court is done in phases. The first phase is the pre-suit, wherein we collect information through open record requests or people voluntarily providing it. This can take a matter of months, depending on the nature of the case and the severity of the injuries. More sensitive or critical information can be gathered through litigation. We could subpoena documents, including those from defendants, non-parties, and even companies who can provide phone records. The process of formal litigation, discovery, and record-collection typically takes six months to one year.
After we collect the initial documentary evidence, the next step is often to take sworn depositions related to that evidence. Depositions can include testimony from the parties involved in the accident, witnesses, law enforcement officers who investigated the scene, or medical doctors who provided care. It is important that we collect information and assemble it in a fashion that can be presented to a jury in an understandable way.
The Defendant’s Capability of Gathering Evidence
It is important for plaintiffs to know that evidence-gathering process is a two-way street. While we actively gather relevant information from the defendant and law enforcement, the defendant also has the right to gather information from the plaintiff’s side in a local auto collision case. It is critical that plaintiffs preserve any information and are aware that the defendant will likely seek to obtain any and all evidence they can in order to challenge the case. That includes scouring social media for comments or posts pertaining to the incident, the injuries, or physical abilities, and using it against the plaintiff.
The injured individual should understand from the outset that they need to preserve responsive information and be accurate in their statements to medical providers. They should also refrain from posting anything regarding the accident on social media.
Why Proving Negligence is Important
To obtain damages, a person must be able to prove that the negligence of another caused the accident. Insurance companies may investigate to determine whether their customers are at fault, but it is wise for drivers seeking compensation to have an Atlanta auto accident attorney conduct their own thorough investigations.
Anyone filing a claim must collect and preserve any evidence concerning any potential finding of negligence as soon as possible. It is important to locate witnesses and review their statements, obtain and analyze police reports and photographs, and study medical reports as part of building a solid claim. After an accident, a person also should seek a thorough medical examination to ensure they can document all injuries from the accident.
A driver could be negligent for any number of reasons. Some of the more common include:
- Driving while distracted by a phone or other device
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive speed or other unsafe driving practice
- Failure to pay attention to surroundings
Admitting Fault in Atlanta Car Accident Cases
In the immediate aftermath of any vehicle collision, an injured person may try to deescalate the situation by admitting mistakes or simply apologizing for the situation. While these are not inherently wrong things to do, they can in certain situations create risk in the event of a legal claim. A local motor vehicle crash attorney could help someone understand how admitting fault in an Atlanta car accident case could negatively impact their claim.
Is it a Mistake to Admit Fault at the Scene of a Car Accident?
Admitting fault at the scene of a car accident in Atlanta is not always a mistake. In some instances, it is clear who is at fault. In these situations, the at-fault party should accept responsibility or risk losing credibility before a jury. More often than not, however, at-fault drivers and their insurance companies deny responsibility and look for excuses. When insurance companies and defendants deny the obvious, this can increase the value of a case.
Sometimes, the at-fault party wants to accept responsibility, but the insurance company does not allow it. Such cases often result in increased verdicts as the jury is angered by a party’s failure to accept responsibility.
In general, if a driver has a basis for accepting fault at the scene of an accident, they should do so. However, an individual should not accept responsibility for anything that occurred, in the interest of creating goodwill. Therefore, drivers should be honest and only accept what they know to be true.
The Risks of Apologizing at the Scene of a Car Accident
Apologizing at the scene of a car accident could pose little risk to an injured individual who simply wants to be compassionate or acknowledge that they are sorry the accident transpired. Collisions often occur by accident and without intent. However, it is important for at-fault drivers to own responsibility for them. Simply being kind to another individual who was involved in the same regrettable experience is unlikely to harm a subsequent case.
Defendant drivers and insurance companies often do not accept fault, express remorse, or show concern for people who suffer injuries in an accident. Juries tend not to be receptive to defendants who deny facts or fail to express concern for the injured party.
Giving Recorded Statements Following a Car Wreck in Atlanta
Insurance companies often ask injured parties for recorded statements after car accidents because information provided during such statements could be used against claimants later. There is no reason for insurance companies to not request recorded statements since providing a statement poses a risk to the injured individual alone. Recorded statements allow insurance companies to use an injured person’s statements against them if their memory of the incident changes or if their injuries evolve.
As such, a driver should never give a recorded statement to another motorist’s insurance company before consulting with an attorney. An individual is under no obligation to provide a recorded statement to another driver’s insurance company after an accident. In fact, doing so can be a detriment to one’s own case. Because insurance companies can also interact amongst themselves, they might communicate via the injured person’s insurance company as well.
What to Do When the Other Driver’s Insurance Company Offers a Check
Another driver’s insurance company might offer a settlement check if there is limited insurance coverage for a significant injury, in an attempt to quickly resolve the case within the limits of the policy. By cashing a check from an insurance company, the injured individual gives the company a basis for declaring that they have resolved their claims within that policy.
If an injured person is offered a settlement check, they should not accept the check without understanding that it is in exchange for a limited liability release. Cashing a check from an insurance company can create hurdles that may prevent them from recovering under UM policies. It may also complicate successfully negotiating down any applicable liens.
Common Mistakes After a Car Accident
One of the most common mistakes that people in Atlanta make after being involved in a car accident is choosing an attorney based solely on advertisements and then expecting this legal professional to have their best interests in mind. In the aftermath of an accident, an injured individual should have an attorney who they can speak with directly and who they trust to advocate for their best interests.
There are also some attorneys who are not focused on maximizing the value of a person’s case, but instead they try to maximize the number of cases they have in their office. This kind of behavior can lead to a claimant getting lost in the shuffle or being misdirected about what they should be doing. Injured individuals should choose a lawyer who they feel prioritizes their needs and is directly available to them.
What Does it Mean to File a Claim?
Filing a claim means a person begins the process of a lawsuit. In Georgia, a plaintiff initiates a lawsuit by filing a document called a complaint, which sets forth the allegations and identifies the defendants against whom the allegations are made. While the complaint does not have to be overly detailed, it should set forth the allegations that are being made, the injuries that are being claimed, and the parties against whom the claim is being brought.
Filing a claim is also known as filing a case or action. Prior to filing a formal car accident lawsuit in Atlanta, the plaintiff’s attorney makes a claim with the defendant’s insurance company. These letters are often followed by a demand to the insurance company to settle the case once the attorney has the majority of the medical records and bills related to the injuries.
The Process of Filing a Car Accident Claim
We talk with the plaintiff to make sure that they have identified all of the culpable parties before filing. In a car accident case, there could be more parties than just the driver. We could identify the owner of the vehicle and establish whether or not the driver was working at the time of the incident, potentially making their employer vicariously liable. It is also important to determine if the involved vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and if the plaintiff can name the insurance company.
The plaintiff has to approve of filing suit and provide us the relevant information. After that, it is our responsibility to ensure that the document is appropriately drafted, filed, and served.
The complaint should be filed in the court of the county where the defendant resides. If there are multiple defendants, all of them can be named in the suit in the county where one defendant resides. After the complaint is accepted by the court, they must serve it on the defendant. Once properly served, the defendant has 30 days to respond to the complaint.
To be viable in Atlanta court, it is important to identify the correct venue and the correct parties, as well as ensure that there is proper jurisdiction over the defendant. The plaintiff should make explicitly clear to the defendant what they are asserting.
Types of Courts to File a Case In
Atlanta car accident claims are typically filed in state court, in the county where the defendant resides. If the injuries are not all that severe, we could pursue that case in magistrate court instead. If the defendant is not a Georgia resident, we could file it with the federal court; and there is also a chance that the defendant could have the case moved from state court to federal court. Federal rules require that some additional documents be filed, such as a certificate of interested persons.
Instead of circuit court, Georgia utilizes state courts and federal courts, which are also district courts. The term “circuit court” in Georgia refers to the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which handles appeals of cases that have been litigated in district court.
Does the Plaintiff Forfeit the Right to Settle if they File a Claim?
Filing an action and serving a summons does not forfeit a plaintiff’s right to settle the matter out of court. The parties can continue private negotiations during the entire process. Attorneys typically attempt to negotiate a pre-suit settlement. Once a suit is filed, meaningful settlement negotiations are unlikely to proceed until additional evidence is gathered or the case is litigated to a certain point. However, there is nothing that precludes the parties from continuing early settlement negotiations subsequent to the filing an auto collision claim.
How an Attorney Could Help
According to state law, the statute of limitations in any personal injury or wrongful death case is typically two years from the date of the injury or death. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, in car accident cases specifically, the statute of limitations may be tolled while there is a ticket pending.
If the police issue a ticket or citation following car accident, the statute of limitations generally will not begin to run until that ticket is resolved. Additionally, if the claimant is a minor, the statute of limitations on some claims extends to two years after this person turns 18 years old.
Anyone who has a potential car wreck case should promptly contact an attorney to discuss the Atlanta statutes of limitations. A claimant who tries to do research on their own could misunderstand or get the wrong information because of all of the nuances in the law. If an injured person does not comply with the statute of limitations, they are precluded from bringing their case. An experienced attorney can help someone understand and adhere to their statute of limitations for their specific car accident case.
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Today
The aftermath of an accident may be stressful. You may be left with questions about how you are going to cover the costs of damage to your car and medical treatment. However, if your car accident was the result of another’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses.
When you work with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer, an attorney could immediately help to preserve vital evidence. In addition, a lawyer may be able to advise you of your legal rights, advocate on your behalf in negotiations with insurance companies and in any court proceedings, and fight to help you obtain the full amount of all compensation you deserve.
Call now for a free consultation to learn how an attorney could help.