Frequently Asked Questions about Personal Injury Cases
Q: What should I do following an accident/incident with injuries?
A: Call the appropriate law enforcement agency to investigate and report the incident. Get the names and contact information of any of the parties involved as well as eyewitnesses. Obtain the at-fault party's insurance information, including the company name and policy number. Take pictures of the area where the incident occurred, any property damage and any injuries. Do not give any recorded statements to anyone or any insurance company without the advice of counsel. Do not sign any authorizations for the release of health information to the at-fault party's insurance carrier. Seek immediate medical treatment for any injuries. Call an experienced injury attorney.
Q: How do I know if I have an personal injury case?
A: First, you must be able to prove that you have suffered an injury to your person or property. Next, you must prove that your injury was someone else's fault.
Q: What monetary damages am I entitled to?
A: There are a variety of damages available in injury cases. Of course, even if you can prove someone is at fault in causing an accident/incident, you must still prove your injuries were a direct result of that event. Insurance companies routinely challenge the cause of the injuries and the severity, often downplaying their significance or arguing that a claimant was already injured. Typical damages in an accident/injury case include "special damages" for property damage, medical expenses and lost income as well as "general damages" for pain and suffering. In some cases, "Punitive damages" may also be available. Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for intentional or reckless conduct and are usually sought in cases involving in injuries caused by a DUI driver, hit-and-run accident, and intentional torts such as assault and battery.
Q: Do I really need a lawyer to represent me?
A: While there is no requirement for you to have a lawyer representing you, not having experienced representation in an injury case can be devastating. Insurance companies will not advise you of what is in your best interest and will seek to gather any information they can use to deny or diminish the value of your claim. Things you say to the insurance company that may seem harmless can be used against you by the insurance company in defending the claim. They are not working for you, but rather, are working to save money for their corporation and shareholders. Don't underestimate the lengths the insurance company will go to fight your claim.
Q: What type of fees does your office charge to handle an injury claim?
A: Our office charges a standard contingent fee in cases we agree to take involving personal injuries. We do not collect any attorneys fees in your case unless we obtain a recovery on your behalf. Our standard contingent fee is 1/3 of the total recovery if the case is settled without the necessity of a lawsuit. All settlements are negotiated with a client's full involvement and permission. If an agreement cannot be reached with the insurance company and a lawsuit must be filed, our contingent fee can go to 40% of the total recovery; however, most cases involve a standard 1/3 contingent fee. Any out of pocket expenses incurred in a case are typically advanced by our office and billed out of settlement at the conclusion of the case, so there will seldom be any up front costs to a client. In automobile accident injury cases, as a courtesy, we do not charge a fee for helping resolve your property damage claim if it is resolved without litigation.
Q: Will I have to file a lawsuit or go to court to get compensation for my injuries?
A: Most cases do not require a trial in order for an injury victim to get compensation and can be settled through skilled negotiations with the insurance company. While a lawsuit may become necessary to compel an insurance company to pay fair value for a claim, the vast majority of cases settle prior to a trial date. We are fully prepared to take your case to trial if it cannot be resolved through settlement negotiations.
Q: If my case cannot be settled, do I have to sue the person or company that caused my injuries or their insurance company?
A: In the State of Georgia, you are generally not allowed to sue an insurance company or even mention the existence of the insurance policy in court. The few exceptions to this rule involve contract disputes with insurance carriers, uninsured motorist claims, and cases involving certain commercial vehicles. If a lawsuit is necessary, you will have to sue the negligent party. In turn, their liability insurance carrier will hire a lawyer for them and defend the case. Any judgment obtained in court against the negligent party would be paid by their liability insurer up to the applicable limits.
Q: How soon after I am injured do I have to file a lawsuit?
A: The time during which a person can bring a lawsuit is called the "statutes of limitations." The statute of limitations governs the amount of time you have to file your lawsuit or settle your claim. In Georgia, there is generally a two (2) year statute of limitations for personal injuries; however , there are some situations involving governmental liability where a special ante-litem notice must be given within much shorter time frames to preserve the right to bring a claim. In some states, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit arising out of an automobile accident. If you miss the deadline for filing your case, you may lose your legal right to damages for your injury. Therefore, it is critical that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible so that your claim is properly preserved.
Q: What should I bring with me for my first meeting with an attorney?
A: You should bring any and all documents that might be relevant to your case such as Police reports, medical reports, medical bills, photographs of the accident scene, photographs of your property damage, and photographs of your injuries. Whatever you do not have at the time of your appointment can usually still be obtained by your attorney.
Q: Do I still have a valid injury claim if nobody received a ticket or citation for the incident which caused my injuries?
A: As long as you can show the other party was negligent, it does not matter if anyone received a citation or not. In fact, the receipt of a citation or ticket in and of itself is not even admissible in a Georgia court to prove negligence. You must simply prove that the at-fault drive was negligent and that said negligence caused your injuries.
Q: What is "negligence?"
A: The standard of care in a personal injury case is how a "reasonable person" was expected to act in the particular situation that caused the injury. A person is negligent when he or she fails to act like an "ordinary reasonable person" would have acted. The determination of whether a given person has met the "ordinary reasonable person" standard is often a matter that is resolved by a jury after presentation of evidence and argument at trial.
Q: What if the other party to an accident/incident alleges that I was also negligent?
A: In Georgia, a defendant in an injury case may allege that the claimant/plaintiff was comparatively negligent. If the case goes to court, the claimant/plaintiff must prove that the defendant was more than 50% negligent in causing the incident, or they will not prevail. IF the court determines that the claimant/plaintiff was less than 50% negligent, then the damages will be reduced by the percentage of the claimant's comparative negligence. In summary, if you are adjudicated 50% or more at fault, then you are not permitted to recover anything.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.