Motor Vehicle Accident Claims
A car accident is an incredibly scary and jolting experience. Car accidents are never planned, have major impacts on a person’s health and safety, and can cause lingering effects, both physically and mentally, long after the wreckage is cleared.
It is important to know that the actual car accident itself is only a small part of the process when it comes to sorting out who is liable and what type of liability exists. This article will explain what happens after a car accident occurs from a legal perspective and how you can be in position to succeed in a motor vehicle claim.
Type of Claim
The state of Georgia is considered to be a “fault” state in that a driver who is found to be responsible for a car accident is liable for all of your personal injury and/or property claims associated with that accident. As a result, that person’s insurance policy will first be looked at as a way to provide you compensation.
If the insurance policy does not provide sufficient coverage to provide you with adequate damages, you may either; file a claim with your own insurance company; file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company; or file a civil lawsuit directly against the other driver.
Statute of Limitations
After a car accident occurs, the law in Georgia grants a window of time where the parties involved are able to bring a lawsuit for any damage or injury that occurred as a result of the accident. This timeframe is called the statute of limitations.
If you have sustained a personal injury as a result of the car accident and feel that another driver or drivers were responsible for that personal injury, you are able to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident occurring.
If your vehicle sustained damage due to the accident, which is usually the case, the law in Georgia allows you to bring a lawsuit within four years of the accident. This same timeframe applies to any property that was damaged as a result of the accident. Therefore, if there were personal items within the vehicle that were damaged during the accident, the four-year statute of limitations would also apply to those items.
However, the statute of limitations mentioned above changes if the accident involved a government agency or employee. For example, if your car accident was caused by a city bus, and you want to file a lawsuit, a different set of procedures are in place than would normally be used.
In Georgia, if you would like to bring a lawsuit against a government entity or employee, special notices must be filed prior to initiating the lawsuit. The notices are extremely important in that any error may impact your ability to recover damages. Further, depending upon what type of government entity or employee you would be suing, different timeframes exist as to when the notices need to be filed. An experienced attorney will be able to assist you with this process and ensure that all forms are properly filed.
In addition to government entities and employees having a different set of procedures relating to a car accident, so too does an accident involving an 18-wheeler truck.
Car accidents involving 18-wheeler trucks are not all that common but when they do occur the outcome can be very traumatic. For this reason, commercial truck drivers and truck companies are subject to regulations that are not normally assigned to the average driver on the road. Those regulations include, but are not limited to:
- How many consecutive hours a truck driver may be on the road
- How often truck drivers are required to rest
- How much weight a truck should be carrying
- How truck loads should be transported
- How often a truck should be maintained and checked for issues
If it is found that the driver or owner of an 18-wheeler truck violated any of these regulations and an accident occurred as a result, monetary damages may be awarded. Those damages could include monies associated with the loss of income you suffer as a result of not being able to work, loss of earning capacity, medical coverage, and pain and suffering.
Georgia is a comparative fault state in that you are able to recover damages from someone who is more responsible for the accident than you are; however, the damages are reduced by the percentage of your own level of responsibility. For example, a court finds that you are 10% at fault for the accident and the other driver is 90% at fault. Based on the facts, the court awards you $100,000 in damages based upon your medical bills and pain and suffering. However, because you were found to be 10% liable for the accident, you will only be entitled to $90,000 of the $100,000 award.
If the court finds that you are more than 50% at fault for the accident, you will not be able to recover any amount of monetary damages associated with the accident.
Georgia law mandates that an owner of a vehicle carry insurance. The level of liability coverage must be at minimum $25,000 for both injury or death of one person as well as property damage and $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person.
It is possible that either the other driver or their insurance company will want to settle your claim rather than going to trial. If this happens, there are different ways that the settlement may be paid to you.
For example, a structured settlement may be offered to you which is different than a lump sum payment in that it is an agreement between yourself and the other party that the settlement amount will be paid in installments rather than all at once.
Accepting a structured settlement may be more beneficial to you in terms of the tax ramifications as well as creating a mandated portioning of the funds. However, you may decide that you would like to have more flexibility with the settlement amount would like a one-time lump sum payment.