Each state has its own process for filing claims after an accident, and Georgia is no different. If you are involved in a car accident in Atlanta, especially one that results in physical or mental injury, the process of being awarded damages is complex and often confusing. That’s why it’s best to hire a professional Atlanta lawyer to represent you in your case. Consider the following aspects of the process of filing for damages in Atlanta:
Filing for damages begins with an investigation into the accident. This investigation is almost always performed by the other driver’s insurance company in an attempt to reduce the amount of money they will have to award you. The individuals performing this investigation are professionals, which is why it’s important to seek out an Atlanta attorney as quickly as possible.
Your attorney will perform their own independent investigation and gather pertinent evidence about the accident, such as how it occurred and who was at fault. Remember: the insurance company is doing everything to reduce their liability, which means that your (and/or your attorney’s) investigation will need to be as thorough as possible. This investigation will also give the attorney a ballpark figure as to the amount of property damage you suffered in the accident (i.e. the monetary value of the damage done to your car).
Your attorney will use this information to help determine whether or not you have a valid claim. If they find that you have in fact been wronged by the other driver, they will begin the process of determining what damages you should be awarded. This begins with an extensive medical examination designed to determine the extent and severity of your injuries.
This will give your attorney a baseline estimate of how much your treatment will cost. It also gives them a better picture of what, if any, wages you lost as well as any difficulty your injuries will pose in finding a new job (or advancing in your current one). In addition, this examination will help you put your pain and suffering into words that will eventually be converted into a measurable monetary value.
The Legal Process
After reviewing the evidence they collected during their investigation, your attorney will file a claim. The claim forms the basis of your case, and essentially tells the story of what happened and how it damaged you. A good claim will answer the “why” question. For example, if a jury or judge asks why you are entitled to a certain amount of damages, your lawyer should be able to turn to your claim and say, “because my client was injured and had their quality of life affected” followed by the specifics of your case.
It’s important to note that a claim is not the same thing as a lawsuit, and before a formal suit is filed your attorney will reach out to the other driver, their insurance company and their lawyer (if they decide to hire one). During these meetings, all parties will attempt to negotiate an acceptable settlement based upon your injuries and the disruption the accident caused in your life. Most attorneys and insurance company’s prefer to negotiate rather than incur the cost of going to court (such as court costs or the possibility that a jury will award you more or less damages than hoped for).
If both sides can’t reach an agreement, your lawyer will file a lawsuit. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will present the information to a jury (or in some cases a judge) in an attempt to prove why you are entitled to damages. During the trial, the other council will be given the chance to counter your lawyer’s claims in an attempt to reduce (or eliminate) the amount of damages you are rewarded.
This is where it gets somewhat tricky. Georgia is an at fault state, meaning that your attorney must prove that the other driver was directly responsible for the accident. This can be due to negligence on the part of the other driver, such as speeding or failing to yield or stop for a traffic signal.
The best case scenario is that a traffic camera (or even someone with a cell phone camera) captured the accident on tape. Without this, you will depend upon the police report, your attorney’s investigation and eye witness testimony. If you are unable to produce witnesses or if the police report is ambiguous, it may be difficult to prove that the other driver caused the accident.
Proving Distracted Driving
It’s much easier to prove that a driver caused an accident because they were distracted. It’s often obvious at the scene if a driver is eating or drinking while driving due to the presence of spilled food or drink; the police officer should note this in his report. If this isn’t noted (or if further evidence is needed) your lawyer can look into credit card receipts or cameras located at nearby fast food restaurants to prove that the other driver was distracted.
Technology has opened up new forms of distraction, such as talking on the phone, texting or even looking at a GPS. This is much easier to prove because your attorney can subpoena phone records to determine whether or not the driver was texting or talking on the phone. In certain cases, the use of a GPS system can be proven by seizing GPS data.
So if you get involved in a car accident in the State of Georgia, make sure you contact an attorney in Atlanta specialized in these cases.