What to Do If Involved in a Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident
You are driving down the highway when you hear a sickening crunch; another driver has slammed into your vehicle. The aftermath of a motor vehicle accident is distressing, and you may have a hard time thinking clearly. In addition, car accidents can take a toll financially and emotionally. Therefore, having a worst-case scenario plan for a serious car accident is essential, especially for people who live in places with higher-than-average car crash rates like Georgia. So what should you do after a motor vehicle accident, and when should you hire a lawyer? Our law firm has the answers.
Georgia Car Accident Statistics
There are six million motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. every year, and hundreds of thousands of these occur in Georgia. According to federal data, Georgia ranks fourth in the country for motor vehicle accident fatalities. Car accidents are the leading cause of injury death in Georgia, making up almost one-third of all injury-related deaths. About 1,500 people die every year in Georgia car accidents.
Atlanta, the largest city in Georgia with nearly 500,000 residents, has some of the most congested traffic in the country. Atlanta consistently ranks poorly for walkability and public transportation accessibility, forcing residents to drive for every errand, work commute or other engagement leading to dangerous driving conditions and increased car accidents.
Troublingly, Interstate 285 has the most fatal crashes per mile in the country. These crashes have a tremendous effect on the economy and cost Georgia $1.5 billion annually. Some of the most populated areas in Georgia have the most motor vehicle accident fatalities. Fulton County leads for car accident deaths with 144 motor vehicle accident fatalities every year. The following counties are not far behind:
- Dekalb County (population: 759,300, 79 motor vehicle accident deaths/year)
- Cobb County (population: 760,100, 67 motor vehicle accident deaths/year)
- Gwinnett County (population: 936,300, 61 motor vehicle accident deaths/year)
- Clayton County (population: 292,300, 51 motor vehicle accident deaths/year)
The danger isn’t just limited to bustling urban areas. Unfortunately, Georgia’s less-traveled places aren’t exempt from motor vehicle accidents. In fact, almost 40% of Georgia’s fatal motor vehicle accidents happen on rural roads.
Georgia Auto Accident Laws
Georgia is an at-fault car accident state, which means the driver responsible for the crash is liable for personal injuries sustained in the accident. Georgia has a modified comparative negligence rule, which means that you can recover a percentage of damages depending on how liable you were. In plain words, if the maximum damages are $100,000 and you are found to be 20% at fault, you will be able to collect 80% of the damages. If you are deemed more than 50% liable, the rule does not apply.
What To Do After A Motor Vehicle Accident
The decisions you make in the hours following a car accident may significantly impact your chances of a successful personal injury claim in the future. You don’t want to find yourself frantically Googling in the harrowing moments after a collision, which is why you should prepare ahead of time and know what you will do after a car crash.
Get To Safety: After the initial impact of a car crash, you need to get yourself and your car away from traffic if it poses a danger. If you are in a safe position to do so, do not move vehicles until photographs are taken, and a police officer has arrived to document the scene. You should also check yourself, your passengers, and the occupants of the other vehicle for injuries. If you think you are severely injured, don’t move and instead ask bystanders to call for medical help.
Call For Help: Any accident that causes over $500 in injury or damage must be reported to Georgia law enforcement. In any event, notifying law enforcement can prove helpful to ensure an impartial account that lays out the circumstances surrounding the crash. Ask any police officers who come to the scene for the accident report number assigned to your crash and when the accident report will be available.
Collect Evidence: Take pictures of all the vehicles involved: any noticeable damage, license plates, and road markings like skid marks. Don’t leave the scene without asking the other drivers for their contact information, insurance policy numbers, and driver’s license numbers. If any witnesses have pulled over to help, get their contact information to pass along to law enforcement and your insurance company.
Be Careful: You might feel scared or stressed after a motor vehicle accident, especially if you think you’ve done something wrong. However, you should never tell law enforcement, other drivers, pedestrians, or witnesses that you are at fault. If you do, it will almost certainly impact your chances of a successful claim down the road. Instead, let the law enforcement officer and/or the insurance companies determine fault. With that said, you should always cooperate with law enforcement.
Contact Your Insurance Company: After a motor vehicle accident, one of the first calls you might make is to an insurance company. You must promptly tell your insurer about the collision to file a claim — usually within a month or less. Ideally, you will notify them within days, if not hours, of the crash. There are a few narrow conditions where you may not need to involve your insurance company. But in almost all other cases, you will want to file an insurance claim. You may not think you are injured at the scene of an accident, but symptoms can show up days or even weeks later. Insurance providers may challenge you if you try to report injuries from an accident at a later date.
Car Accident Injuries Not to Ignore
A heartbreaking number of accidents end in tragedy and lead to wrongful death lawsuits, but even those who survive may still suffer significant long-term injuries. Every year, more than 130,000 Georgians are injured in car accidents. Many car accidents can cause debilitating traumatic injuries that can leave people unable to complete basic activities of daily living, such as working and maintaining a household. Some of the more serious injuries include herniated discs, torn ligaments and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Herniated Discs: Any severe car accident will deliver a tremendous amount of force to your body, often including your spine. Herniated or ruptured discs are dangerous because the discs themselves cause no pain when jolted around so that they may go undetected without the proper imaging tests. However, if they start to compress a nerve over time, you could end up with weakness or numbness in your limbs, chronic low back pain or sciatica – sharp, persistent pain on one side of the body. In rare circumstances, complications from a herniated disc could require emergency surgery to avoid permanent weakness or paralysis.
Tendon & Ligament Injuries: Injuries can occur to muscles, ligaments or tendons due to the trauma of a car accident. For example, colliding with an airbag forcefully enough can cause shoulder impingement, inflamed tendons in the shoulders that prevent you from lifting your arms above your head and must be corrected with rotator cuff surgery. The impact from a crash can also tear important ligaments in your knees, such as your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL). Torn ligaments like these may require surgery and can permanently reduce your ability to walk normally, run or play sports.
Brain Injury: Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI). A TBI is a disruption to your brain’s normal function and can range in severity from mild to severe. The most common post-accident TBI is a concussion or cerebral contusion, a temporary injury involving bruising or bleeding around the brain that causes headaches, vision problems and affects brain function. However, if your head sustains a violent blow during a car accident, you are at risk for a severe TBI that may affect your cognition permanently or require long-term rehab. Severe TBIs involve bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain. These injuries can result in long-term complications or death.
Why Hiring a Car Accident Attorney is Important
Unfortunately, insurance companies rarely make fair settlement offers to unrepresented parties, so contacting an established Georgia law firm to review your car accident case is essential. Car accident cases aren’t always straightforward, and an attorney can help you get the compensation you need. For a lawsuit to be decided in your favor, you will need evidence that the other driver was at fault, that your injuries were sustained in the accident and that your medical care was reasonable and necessary. In some instances, you will need evidence of lost opportunity to earn wages, future medical expenses and/or a permanent impairment rating. Again, an attorney can make sure nothing is missed.
Even when an insurance company seems cooperative and sympathetic toward your case, they are not on your side and will want to settle for the smallest sum they can. After the trauma of a car accident, going back and forth with insurance will be the last thing on your mind. An attorney will help you understand the complicated settlement process and communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. If you have a large sum of medical bills or permanent health damage, you will need a settlement that will provide for you for the rest of your life. An attorney can also help you negotiate unresolved medical bills and handle subrogation claims from your health insurer(s).
Childers, Schlueter & Smith L.L.C., located in Atlanta, is a preeminent law firm that practices nationally and is driven by years of experience and exceptional results. Our established Georgia car accident attorneys are here to help car accident victims understand their legal options. For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-641-0098 or contact us online.