Car accident claims are often fraught with legal complexities, and plaintiffs might have a hard time coping as they might still be recovering from their injuries.
Car accidents are not just incredibly dangerous, but they often lead to complicated legal actions. While an insurance claim is often an injured driver’s first course of action, many car accident victims file personal injury lawsuits to claim additional damages when insurance falls short.
You must file your claims within the time limit imposed by the statute of limitations. If the deadline is coming up fast or has already passed, you should talk to a car accident lawyer about whether you can toll the statute and buy more time. While insurance is typically the first step in the legal process, it is often not the last. If the other driver’s insurance denies your claims or offers an insufficient settlement, you can sue the driver for the full value of your damages. While your case is pending, you must focus on gathering as much evidence as possible to prove the defendant acted negligently and should be held liable for the accident.
When to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Georgia
Filing a lawsuit for a car accident is a big step, and many injured victims are hesitant to start what might be a lengthy legal dispute. While you should take your time making such a big decision, it is also important to know that it is best to start your case as soon as possible. It is also worth noting that all lawsuits must be filed before the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases, including car accident claims, is 2 years. All personal injury claims must be submitted no later than 2 years from the date of the accident. If the 2-yeard deadline passes, the plaintiff might lose their right to sue unless they can point to a reason why they should be given more time.
Tolling the statute allows plaintiffs extra time to file their claims under specific conditions. For example, the statute of limitations can be “tolled” if you were under some disability that prevented you from filing your claims. A disability might include an intellectual disability or mental illness. The statute of limitations is also tolled for minors until after they turn 18. Tolling is even available if the defendant left the state, e.g., to avoid a lawsuit being filed against them.
How Does Insurance Affect My Georgia Car Accident Personal Injury Claim?
Georgia follows a fault-based insurance system where injured drivers can file third-party claims with the other driver’s insurance company. To get compensation from the insurance company, the injured driver must prove that the other driver is at fault for the crash. If the insurance company does not believe enough evidence exists to prove fault, they may deny the claim. Even if they are convinced of fault, they might not be convinced of all your damages and offer an inadequate settlement.
Insurance typically covers economic damages, like medical bills and property damage. Non-economic damage like pain and suffering are usually not included in insurance claims. On top of that, your damages are usually only covered up to the insurance policy’s limits. Economic damages might exceed the policy’s limits in severe cases with extensive injuries and high medical bills. In that case, you can sue the other driver for the full value of your damages.
Some states have a “no pay, no play” rule that prevents people from filing lawsuits if they do not carry insurance. Georgia does not have such a law, and uninsured drivers who are not at fault for an accident can still file insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver.
Gathering Evidence for a Car Accident Claim in Georgia
When filing a personal injury lawsuit, you must have sufficient evidence to prove your claims. In civil actions, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, meaning you must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable.
The evidence collection should start at the crash scene. For example, many drivers take photos immediately after a crash and record videos of the scene. Since law enforcement cleans up accident scenes very quickly, photos and videos are needed to preserve images of the scene for court.
Nearby security cameras might have caught the accident on video. Video footage of the accident as it happened is often some of the strongest evidence a plaintiff can gather. You should also consider asking witnesses in other vehicles if they happened to have dashboard cameras or dashcams recording the accident.
Speaking of witnesses, the more you have to support your claims, the better for your case. While physical evidence and video footage can be very convincing, the power of witness testimony should not be underestimated. You need witnesses who had a clear view of the accident or have some other firsthand knowledge that can shed some light on the case.
Proving Liability in a Georgia Car Accident Claim
In many car accident claims, liability is based on negligence. Negligence includes four legal elements, each of which must be established for the plaintiff to meet their burden of proof. These elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.
The duty element is the defendant’s legal duty of care toward the plaintiff. In car accidents, the duty is often the defendant’s legal duty to drive with reasonable safety while obeying the traffic code. This duty applies to all drivers on the road at all times.
Breach refers to the defendant’s actions or omissions that violated their duty of care. What this looks like will vary from case to case. For example, failing to stop at a stop sign or driving while texting would be considered a breach.
The element of causation is what connects the breach to the accident. In short, the defendant’s breach of duty must be the direct and proximate cause of the accident. Finally, the plaintiff must show that their damages are real. Hypothetical injuries or “what if” scenarios do not cut it.
Final Thoughts on Car Accident Claims in Georgia
Car accident claims are often fraught with legal complexities, and plaintiffs might have a hard time coping as they might still be recovering from their injuries. Before starting a car accident claim, you should speak to a qualified attorney about your case.