Serious Auto Accidents Lawyer in Atlanta
Studies and statistics from federal and state highway safety agencies chronicle the harm created by negligent driving. Here are few of these numbers. In 2016, car crashes claimed 1,554 lives in Georgia. Perhaps surprisingly, 603 of those fatalities occurred in rural Georgia — especially when you consider that crashes in urban areas accounted for 951 deaths. Statistics reveal 115 deaths in 2017 from automobile crashes in Fulton County. Cobb County, also in the Atlanta area, had 53 automobile-related deaths. Impaired driving was responsible for 368 deaths in Georgia.
The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reported 37,133 deaths nationwide from car crashes in 2017. More than a fourth of those, specifically 10,874, were alcohol-related.
Careless driving can also inflict serious injuries. In 2016, nearly 16 people suffered serious injuries per every 100 million miles accumulated by vehicles throughout Georgia.
With the numbers of vehicles using Georgia roads and the frequency of trips, chances are you may become involved in a car crash. If it should happen, you need a lawyer to examine the circumstances and pursue compensation for the losses occasioned from the incident.
Causes of Car Accidents
Car accident cases generally are negligence cases. That is, the driver who injured you failed to exercise reasonable and ordinary care in driving. Often, crashes result from the driver’s violation of one or more traffic laws. Here is a non-exhaustive list of common traffic violations that cause car accidents:
- Failure to stop at a stop sign or red light
- Driving outside the lane of travel
- Passing in a no-passing zone
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substance
- Texting while driving
- Aggressive driving, which may include tailgating, preventing lane changes or passing by other drivers; cutting in front of other drivers
Negligent drivers also fail to keep a proper lookout for other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Even a brief moment of inattention, such as changing the radio dial, peeking at a smartphone or reaching for an object can cause rear-end collisions, crashes at intersections, collisions involving motorcycles and bicycles, head-on crashes and impact with buildings or people.
Who Can We Hold Accountable for Car Accidents?
In automobile cases, liability may not always be limited to the driver. Certain cases may allow a party to be “vicariously” liable. That means, due to a relationship with the negligent driver, a person, company or other organization should have to answer for the driver’s negligence.
Once such relationship arises when the at-fault driver was using a vehicle owned by a spouse, parent or someone else in the driver’s household. Under Georgia’s “family purpose doctrine,” the owner of the vehicle can be held liable if a driver lived in the owner’s immediate household, the owner made the vehicle available for the household’s use, and the driver had the owner’s permission.
Drivers who act negligently in the course and scope of their employment can expose their employers to liability. These employers may include local governments in Georgia or an agency of the State of Georgia. If you’re injured due to a City of Atlanta vehicle or one owned by another local governmental agency or the state, you must make your claim via an administrative letter within six months after the accident.
Additionally, if the facts support it, you can sue the owner for negligently allowing the motorist to drive. Negligent entrustment arises from evidence that that the owner knew the driver was incompetent or reckless. Circumstances that may show negligent entrustment include knowledge that the driver was:
- Drowsy or sleepy;
- Lacked experience, usually because of age;
- Suffering a disability, such as impaired sight or hearing or condition that prevents them from controlling the wheel, brakes, accelerator or other safety equipment
- Not licensed, had a revoked or suspended license, or was driving outside of the known restrictions
Damages from a Car Crash
Typical damages that you can recover in an automobile accident include:
- Charges for hospitals, physicians’ services, prescriptions, ambulance or other medical transport; walkers, wheelchairs or other medical equipment due to injuries.
- Lost wages arising from missed work
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage, which is generally measured as the diminution in value of the vehicle due to the crash
- Pain and suffering
Your spouse may have a loss of consortium claim for the lost companionship, affection, support and other benefits of the marriage.
Should your spouse, child or other loved one die at the hands of another’s carelessness, you may have a wrongful death claim. In these claims, you can recover your loved one’s lost wages, what he or she would have reasonably earned if still alive, and the lost companionship, affection and other benefits of your relationship with the deceased. The estate can seek in a wrongful death lawsuit medical expenses to treat the final injuries of the decedent, expenses for the funeral and burial, and the pain and suffering of the decedent before death.
Can I Recover If I am At Fault?
Your negligence is not an automatic bar to recovery. Georgia follows the comparative negligence rule. This means that your recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. For example, if your damages total $80,000, and you are 25 percent at fault, you recover $60,000. This is because your recovery is reduced by $20,000, which is one-fourth of the $80,000.
What Should I Do After an Automobile Crash?
Get Driver’s Information. You need to know the name and address of the driver and the owner of the vehicle involved.
Insurance. It is critical that you and a lawyer have insurance information on the vehicle that struck you. Georgia requires every driver to have liability insurance with at least $25,000 per person, $50,000 per occurrence and $25,000 of property damage liability for each occurrence.
From this insurance, you have a way to recover from a driver who is liable for your damages. If the negligent driver does not have insurance coverage or not enough to cover your injuries, you may have to resort to your own policy’s uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Obtain the accident report. If the property damage from the crash exceeds $500, the drivers involved are required to contact law enforcement. Injuries or death also trigger the mandate to report the accident.
If the accident is reportable, the law enforcement agency that investigates the crash will have a report. This will include the drivers identification, insurance information, witness statements and the findings of the investigating officer.
Seek medical attention promptly. Do not assume that you do not have injuries merely because you are not taken by ambulance to the emergency room or do not feel significant pain. Motor vehicle accidents can cause concussions or other injuries that might not initially appear serious. Further, if you fail to promptly seek medical attention, a defense lawyer might be able to argue that you failed to mitigate your damages and should not be able to recover them.
Photographs and witnesses. Photographs of the wreck cars can provide some evidence of the force of impact and how the wreck happened. You may also want to photograph the scene of the wreck, skid marks and objects into which the negligent driver collided.
Sometimes, not all of the witnesses to a crash will be the drivers or passengers. For example, some of the witnesses who were not interviewed may include someone who saw the driving or the impact from some distance. If the crash happened near and establishment or intersection, see if you can get video surveillance or other footage. This may proved especially helpful in hit-and-run cases.
Do not respond to the insurance company yourself. Following a crash, the insurance company for the at-fault driver likely will contact you. This may happen within a very few days after the crash. You will be asked to give a statement, and the insurance company might send you a settlement offer.
Speak with an auto accident attorney before you take either of these actions. Anything you tell the insurance company or its adjuster can potentially be used in court against you. The opposing attorney may argue that you admitted that either you were at fault or the other driver was not at fault.
With regard to settlement, insurance companies may send you a check that says it is for a final settlement of your claims. If you cash such a check, you may be barred forever from bringing lawsuit. This is so even if the damages are greater than the amount of the settlement.
How Long Do I Have to Bring a Lawsuit?
If you do not start a lawsuit in time, your claims will be barred by the statute of limitations. In Georgia, this law gives you two years from the date of the crash to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. If only property damage is involved, you can wait as long as four years.
These two statutes run from the date of the accident. If you have a wrongful death claim, statute of limitations is two years after the date of death. This date may be later than the date of the crash.
Contact one of our Atlanta area attorneys to evaluate your potential claims and begin preparing the lawsuit and settlement.