Most people will be involved in at least three or four accidents in their lifetime, reports Fox Business. Therefore, it is important for every driver to know how insurance works in their state, what you need to do to file a claim after an accident, and what to expect during the process. For information about your specific case or for help with your claim, call an Atlanta auto accident lawyer from Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A.: (404) 531-1545.
How does auto insurance work when you are in an accident?
Each state has distinct laws pertaining to auto insurance and the manner in which insurance companies must handle claims after an accident. Some states are what the law refers to as no-fault states, which means that after an accident, each party turns to his own insurance company for reimbursement, regardless of who was at fault.
Georgia, however, does not follow a no-fault system. Instead, the Peach State is one of the states that adheres to a fault-based system, where determining negligence is a fundamental part of the claims process. In fault states, the party who is most at fault in an accident is the one that may be liable for the victim’s damages.
When you are hurt in an accident, Georgia laws provide that you have three basic ways to try to obtain compensation for damages.
1. File a claim with your own insurance company (if you are at fault, or if the at-fault driver’s insurance does not cover all of your losses).
2. File a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If you can prove that you are not at fault, the other party’s insurer will have to pay your damages, up to the insured’s policy limits.
3. File a civil lawsuit against the other driver. It is usually easier to settle a claim before risking having to go to court; however, if the insurer refuses to offer you a fair settlement, you have the right to sue.
Note: Georgia subscribes to a rule known as the Modified Comparative Fault Rule. This rule says that if you were partly at fault for an accident, you can still file a claim with the other party’s insurer and recover damages, so long as you are less than 50 percent at fault.
The catch is that the insurer or court will reduce your final settlement in the same proportion as your degree of fault. So, if the insurer or court finds you 40 percent liable for the accident, it would reduce your $100,000 settlement award to $60,000.
What do I have to prove to get damages from the liable driver?
If you believe other party (defendant) is at fault for the accident, in order to prove your claim or lawsuit and get a settlement award, you will need to prove the four following elements:
Duty of care: Duty of care refers to a person’s legal responsibility to refrain from doing anything that can cause others harm. This is almost a given in car accidents; all drivers have a duty of care to act responsibly on the road so as not to cause harm to befall other road users.
Negligence: This is the really the crux of auto accident cases. You have to be able to prove that the defendant acted (or failed to act) in such a way that breached his duty of care. In other words, his actions were negligent or careless. Examples of negligence can include reckless driving, drinking and driving, texting while driving, speeding, and not looking before pulling out into traffic.
Causation: Next, you have to be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence/breach of duty caused the accident and your subsequent harm, called “cause-in-fact.”
Causation in car accidents can get a little muddy sometimes, though. For instance, what if a driver lost control while speeding and hit a telephone pole, which toppled over and landed on your car? In these types of circumstances where the driver indirectly caused the accident, you can still substantiate causation under what is called “proximate cause” or “but-for causation.”
In these cases, you have to prove to the insurer or court that you would not have sustained your injuries but for the defendant’s negligence.
Damages: Damages refer to the monetary awards you receive to compensate you for your losses. You need to prove that you actually suffered harm, sustained real losses as a result of the accident, and are therefore entitled to damages. Harm can include physical injuries, emotional injuries, and financial losses.
How do I prove fault/liability?
To win an auto accident claim, you essentially have to be able to produce adequate evidence that shows the other driver was at fault for the crash. If you can do that, you can hold the other driver (technically his insurance company) liable for your damages.
Knowing what types of evidence might be most helpful to prove a case and how to go about collecting it is difficult, particularly if you have never filed a claim before or do not work in insurance or injury law.
For instance, if your loved one sustained severe or fatal injuries in a truck accident and you are filing a claim, you might not know that you should request the truck driver’s logbook and black box, as well as submit an order (spoliation letter) that requires the trucking company to preserve any evidence.
In serious or complicated cases, many car accident victims opt to enlist in the help of a personal injury attorney to help them with evidence, forms, the filing process, and negotiating with the insurance company.
Below are some of the basic types of evidence you may want to collect. Again, each case is different, so do your homework and make sure you gather what is pertinent for your claim.
• The police report for the accident (If you did not get a copy of the report at the scene, you can contact the Atlanta Police Department’s Central Records Unit at 404-546-7461 to request a copy. Alternatively, you can request one on BuyCrash.com, a site that the APD has partnered with. Note: there is a fee for the latter option.)
• Photos and video of the scene and the damage to the vehicles
• The other driver’s information (name, contact information, license number, tag number, and insurance provider/policy number/phone number)
• Eyewitness statements, names, and contact information (it may be best to just forward this information to your attorney as he will be better equipped to ask the right types of questions and it will allow you to focus on healing)
• Surveillance video from traffic cams or nearby businesses
• Other case-specific records such as cell phone records (to prove the other party was distracted while driving), commercial truck maintenance records, breathalyzer results, etc.
What types of damages are recoverable?
If you win your case, you will be entitled to recover damages for many of the losses you have sustained that are related to the accident. This includes both economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages compensate you for your actual expenses. These are the easy-to-quantify losses such as medical bills, property damages, and lost wages. You can justify your economic damages using evidence such as bills, receipts, medical records, and estimates.
Noneconomic damages refer to the intangible losses you suffered as a result of the crash. This includes emotional, mental, and psychological harms. While harder to calculate than economic damages, you can prove noneconomic damages using evidence such as field expert testimonies, mental health records and diagnoses, and convincing input from your lawyer.
Note: Generally, the more severe your physical injuries and the more substantial your economic damages, the more noneconomic damages you will receive.
Some of the damages that are recoverable include those for the following:
• Current and future medical bills, including emergency room care, hospital bills, surgeries, prescriptions, follow-up visits
• Rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy
• Pain and suffering
• Emotional distress and mental disorders caused by the accident, e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder
• Current and future lost wages, lost benefits, lost job opportunities, etc.
• Disability and disfigurement
• Property damage, the cost of a rental vehicle, and the cost of transportation to your medical appointments
• Damage to your relationships resulting from your injuries, such as loss of consortium with your spouse and loss of emotional support for your children
How do I begin the accident claims process and what can I expect?
As soon as practicable after the accident, you will need to call your insurance company to report the accident. If the other driver was at fault, you also can call his insurance company to report the accident and begin the claims process. When you speak to the insurance representative (called a claims adjuster), she will ask you a series of questions about the accident.
CAUTION: You should only provide basic information about the accident to the adjuster – the when, where, and who. Do not provide any input about fault or make any unnecessary statements or accusations. Adjusters may use things you say during the conversation against you. If the adjuster tries to press for additional information from you, tell her that you need to speak with your attorney first.
After you have initiated the claim, the adjuster will consider all the facts of the case and determine liability. If there are issues with determining fault, you will need to supply the adjuster with pertinent evidence to support your case.
You will also need to have list of damages you are entitled to, and the records to back up your claim. The more comprehensive you can be the better. Again, because there are likely numerous available compensable damages that you are not aware of, you should consider having a lawyer help you so you do not miss out on money that you are entitled to.
Once the adjuster has determined who is at fault and reviewed your damages, she will accept or deny your claim, and offer you a settlement accordingly. If the settlement is not fair or the adjuster apportions more fault to you than you think you deserve, you can then take the case to the Atlanta Municipal Court for a judge to review.
Where can I find help for my auto accident claim in Atlanta?
If you or your loved one recently sustained severe or fatal injuries in an accident in Atlanta, you are welcomed to call our personal injury attorneys at Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. for assistance.
We accept all types of auto accident cases, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, public transit accidents, work-related auto accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents. Our caring, qualified team can help you with any aspect of your case, from handling adjusters to fighting for your rights to compensation in litigation.
Contact us today at 404-531-1545 and request a free case evaluation to get started.