One of your next steps should be to obtain a copy of the Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident Report from the law enforcement agency that investigated the wreck.
When you or a loved one has been involved in a car wreck, there are generally two possible types of claims involved.
- A claim for damage to the car (commonly called “property damage”)
- A claim for personal injury or wrongful death (commonly called “bodily injury”).
At the Butler Law Firm, we only handle bodily injury cases—in other words, we only represent people who have been involved in car wrecks as to their claims for injuries or death, not just damage to the car.
But over the years, lots of people have called us looking for help dealing with the damage to the car, even if they weren’t hurt in the accident. We put this Georgia Car Damage Manual to help those people. Now we’re putting it on the web for all to use. Georgia law allows property damage claims to be handled separately from personal injury claims. See O.C.G.A. § 51-1-32. That means that if you’ve been injured, you can settle your claim for the damage to your car and get back on the road while you continue getting the medical treatment you need. While personal injury cases often need a lawyer, sometimes if there are no injuries and the only issue is damage to your car, you may be able to handle the claim yourself. (See Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident). If that’s the route you decide to take, we hope this Georgia Car Damage Manual will help you. If you or someone else involved in the accident was hurt, please contact us or apply online. But if you weren’t hurt and the only problem is damage to your car, click the blue button below and read on.
What to Do After a Car Accident
1. Contact the police and seek medical attention.
If you or someone else involved in the accident is hurt, your first priority should be getting medical treatment. Even if there are no injuries, it is always a good idea to contact the police to make a report of the accident. Without a police report, it can be more difficult to prove what happened.
2. Take photos of the vehicles and of the accident scene, if you are able to safely do so.
One of your next steps should be to obtain a copy of the Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident Report from the law enforcement agency that investigated the wreck. Usually, the officer will give you a case number with directions on how to obtain that report. It can often take several days for the police report to become available.
3. Contact the insurance company listed on the report for the at-fault driver to report the claim.
Oftentimes, the police report will show which driver was suspected to be at fault, and may also show that this at-fault driver was issued a citation. After you report the claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the insurance company should assign a claims adjuster who will contact you to appraise your vehicle. If you are hurt, there will likely be a separate adjuster who handles your injury claim. The adjuster who handles the damage to your car will usually identify themselves as a “property damage adjuster,” or otherwise tell you that they are only handling the property damage claim. This adjuster may ask to see the vehicle in person to assess the damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, the vehicle may be declared a total loss (or “totaled”), or it may be repaired.
If you have collision coverage through your own car insurance, your insurance company will pay for your vehicle repair, replacement, or rental car and then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, you will have to pay your deductible for the time being. Your deductible amount will ultimately be refunded to you as part of your property damage settlement once the at-fault driver’s insurance company accepts liability.
When They Ask for a Recorded Statement . . .
Sometimes insurance adjusters ask you to make a recorded statement. Sometimes they pretend like you have no choice, and can even be pushy about it. But there is absolutely no requirement under Georgia law for you to provide a recorded statement to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Know your rights and stand your ground.
The only time when you may potentially have an obligation to provide a statement is when you are using your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (meaning the at-fault driver did not have insurance or did not have enough insurance). In this situation, you may have a contractual obligation to cooperate in the request, but you can still consult with an attorney before making a statement.
The insurance adjuster may tell you that the claims process can’t get started until you provide a statement. This can be a trap to get you to say something that can be used against your case later. You have the right to talk with a lawyer before giving any statement, recorded or not, to the insurance company.
What to Do if Your Car Can Be Repaired
If your car can be repaired, congratulations! That will save you the trouble of having to negotiate with the insurance company over the amount they would have to pay you for a totaled car. However, there are a few other issues for you to think about.
This is an excerpt of a larger article that can be found here.