Articles Posted in Car Accidents

One of the purposes of this blog is to educate potential clients as to the ins-and-outs of personal injury claims and why good legal representation is so important.  As a result, we tend to focus on the general principles of personal injury law. Sometimes, though, a story can teach the same concepts in a much more powerful way. In this post, we’d like to share a story with you that demonstrates some of the general principles we’ve covered in prior posts.  

It Was A Typical Tuesday Morning

Carol works as an office manager for a small financial planning firm. She lives in a rural area, about 30 or 40 minutes from the office. She works Monday through Friday, and keeps regular business hours, but does like to get in early.  

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, your first priority is your health. Before anything else, you need to get examined by a doctor and seek the necessary treatment. Unfortunately, everything that comes after that – namely, paying your medical bills – can get fairly complicated. In this post, we hope to shed some light on how insurance plays a role in compensating you for your injuries.

For purposes of this post, we’ll assume that your injuries are serious and will require long-term treatment, loss of income, and a significant amount of pain and suffering. Let’s also assume that you wind up having to pursue legal action in order to get fair compensation for your injuries.     

Health Insurance

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that approximately 40% of all car accidents occur at intersections. This may not be surprising, given the fact that intersections bring various streams of traffic together that are moving in different directions.  However, reports also indicate that in the state of Georgia the number of accidents occurring at intersections is increasing.  

The good news is that accidents at intersections generally involve slower moving traffic, and therefore fatalities are less common. Regardless, there is still some risk of death, and the risk of serious injury is very real. If you or a loved one has been injured in an intersection accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  

Causes of Intersection Accidents

It’s no secret that ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity in recent years. Ridesharing offers a number of attractive options over traditional taxi service such as shorter wait times, a tech-based system, and newer, cleaner cars. However, no one ever thinks about what happens if they are injured in an accident while riding in an Uber or Lyft vehicle. Taxi companies are heavily regulated and have strict insurance requirements in order to protect customers in the event that something goes wrong. Ridesharing, given that it is relatively new, is still developing these standards.  

Insurance

In the event of an accident, the first question that arises is who’s insurance is going to pay the claim. Interestingly, ridesharing companies are actually subject to more onerous insurance requirements than taxi companies. A taxi driver is not required to carry more than the minimum amount of insurance required of private drivers: $25,000 for injury or death of a single victim and $50,000 for all victims in a single accident. The situation for rideshare services changed dramatically in 2015 when Georgia enacted House Bill 225. That law specifically mandated that rideshare services carry the following policy minimums:

In most cases, the parties involved in a car accident remain at the scene, exchange contact and insurance information, and wait for the police to arrive. In some cases, however, the at-fault driver flees the scene. These people are usually fleeing the scene because they don’t have insurance, but it may be because they are undocumented immigrants or they have a warrant out for their arrest. In some cases, the driver may be intoxicated, confused (if the driver is elderly), or simply panicked. Whatever the reason, hit-and-run accidents can be very complicated if you’re injured.  

What to Do First

If you’re reading this, you have hopefully already given whatever details you to have to the police regarding the driver and the vehicle. If you haven’t, you should contact the police as soon as possible, file a report, and cooperate fully with their investigation. You should also report the accident to your insurance company. More importantly, you should get checked out by your doctor.  

The safety technology found in modern cars is simply amazing. Thanks to seat belts, airbags, and crumple-zones that absorb the force of an accident, people now walk away from car accidents that used to result in certain death. Despite these safety features, car accidents can still result in very serious injuries that are not always readily apparent. These injuries can be especially serious when they involve the head and neck.  

If you’ve been in a car accident, the first thing for you to do is see your doctor, even if you feel fine. Your doctor can give you a thorough examination and explain the symptoms you need to watch out for. You may need to take a few days off of work, but the most important thing is that you focus on your health.

Recognizing Whiplash

According to the CDC, 29 Americans die every day in alcohol-related car accidents. From 2003-2012, almost 4,000 Georgians were killed. And while death is certainly the worst-case scenario, these statistics don’t account for the horrific injuries that can change the victim’s life forever.  

If you or your family has suffered as a result of an alcohol-related accident, you need to understand who you may have a claim against. The intoxicated driver is obviously at fault, but what happens if he is killed or doesn’t have the financial means to make you whole? There were others who could have taken action to prevent this accident but did not. Should they be held accountable for your suffering?  

The Georgia Dram Shop Act

If you’ve never been in a car accident, you may be surprised at how quickly the insurance companies spring into action. It’s important to understand, however, that the insurance companies involved have different roles to play and different motivations. Your insurance company is working on your behalf because you pay your premiums and they are under contract.  The other driver’s insurance company, on the other hand, represents the interests of the other driver. Even if the other driver has admitted that the accident was his fault, the insurance company then wants to make sure that it pays no more than it absolutely has to in paying your claim.

As a result, the other insurance company is going to want to settle the claim as quickly as possible. That may sound very appealing, but understand that a settlement is going to require you to waive any other claims, whether you are aware of them or not. For example, if you later discover that you have nerve damage as a result of the accident, you won’t be able to bring a claim against them if you’ve already entered a settlement agreement. For these reasons and others we’ll get into below, it’s very important to understand how to talk to the other driver’s insurance company.

First Things First……..

In our previous post, we discussed a scenario where you and your family were in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. As is often the case, the other driver winds up being charged with DUI. People sometimes get confused as to what that means for them if they are injured, and so we discussed some of the principal differences between the criminal case and a claim for your personal injuries. Here is a brief summary of the points we discussed:

  • The criminal case against the driver is brought by the government, based on the fact that he broke the law. He will face possible jail time and fines, as well as other penalties.  
  • A personal injury lawsuit is based on the victim’s claim for damages arising from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.  

Here is an unfortunately all-too-common scenario: you’re driving home late one night from a family get-together. Suddenly, while coming around a turn, a car appears in your lane coming right at you. You try to swerve, but it’s too late, and the other vehicle hits you head on. Your vehicle is totaled. Your family is a bit shaken-up but seems to otherwise be ok. It’s immediately obvious that the other driver is severely intoxicated. When police arrive on the scene, he’s mostly incoherent. The police report indicates that there was a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle, he admitted to having several drinks, and could not perform any of the field sobriety tests. As a result, you’re not surprised to learn that the other driver is being prosecuted for DUI.  

A few days pass and you discover that even though you have insurance, you’re going to have to pay out of pocket in order to replace your car. In addition, you have a lot of stiffness in your upper body. Your husband has intermittent pain in his neck, and one of your children is complaining about severe, recurring headaches. What do you do?

Isn’t all of this being handled in the criminal case? Over the next couple of posts, we’ll be discussing how the criminal case and a claim for personal injury are related.  

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