Navigating The Aftermath
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Atlanta’s Trusted Car Accident Law Firm
In Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the country, motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately common, and the injuries suffered as a result of such an accident can be severe. The statistics tend to align with this perception of danger and injury severity. According to a recent report completed by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, in 2015 alone, there were 1,430 traffic fatalities, 385,221 crashes, and 19,405 serious injuries suffered across the state of Georgia. It seems undeniable: car accidents are a serious public health issue and contribute to many avoidable injuries every year in the state of Georgia and elsewhere.
If you have been injured in an auto accident due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another, you may be entitled to recover damages as compensation for your injuries under Georgia law. Personal injury lawsuits — particularly car accident lawsuits — are often deceivingly straightforward at first glance. What may initially appear to be a basic injury lawsuit against a negligent driver defendant can suddenly evolve into complicated litigation against multiple defendants, including corporate defendants, once additional facts are gleaned from an investigation of the accident.
Car Accident Cases We Handle
Drivers and pedestrians in Atlanta are exposed to different dangers every day. At Ponton Law, our Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers have experience with different types of car accident cases. We help our clients handle anything from fender benders to rear-end collisions.
Contact our office if you or someone close to you was involved in any of the following:
- Hit-and-run accidents;
- Single-car accidents;
- Multi-car accidents;
- Rear-end collisions;
- Head-on collisions;
- Pedestrian accidents;
- Poor weather accidents
- Reckless driving
- Side impact crashes
- DUI/DWI related accidents;
- Fatigued driver accidents;
- Distracted driving accidents;
- Speeding accidents;
- Rollover accidents;
- Underinsured motorist issues;
- Right-of-way issues, and
- Drunk driving accidents.
Regardless of the type of car accident you have been involved in, you should call our Atlanta car accident attorney. Along with protecting your rights, we will also ensure you get the compensation owed to you for your misery. With an office in northern Atlanta, we represent clients in Fulton County and the surrounding areas.
Causes for Atlanta Car Accidents
Car accidents are diverse, and the negligence leading to a car accident can differ quite substantially from case to case. For example, you may be involved in an auto accident lawsuit where the roadway was poorly lit and therefore exposed drivers and passengers to unreasonable injury risk. Alternatively, you may be involved in a car accident lawsuit where the roadway was well-designed, but the defendant-driver was intoxicated and rear-ended you at a red light. The circumstances can vary substantially.
Negligence is best understood categorically. In the context of car accidents, some common defendant “categories” include other drivers, employers, and property owners. Drivers may be found liable for negligence that includes, but is not limited, to:
- Distracted driving;
- Unsafe driving tactics;
- Aggressive driving;
- Driving under the influence;
- Exhaustion and general fatigue;
- Unlicensed driving; and
- Driving without necessary medication (or corrective lenses).
Atlanta-area employers may also be held liable — in certain circumstances — for the negligence of their driver employees and can be held additionally liable for negligent acts that contribute to a car accident, such as:
- Negligent hiring of a driver;
- Negligent supervision of a driver;
- Scheduling drivers to a degree where they are fatigued and dangerous;
- Improper cargo loading;
- Inadequate inspection of vehicles; and
- Failure to maintain company vehicles.
Elderly and Young Drivers
Though the common stereotype of aging drivers is that of a slow and excessively careful operator, the reality is quite different. According to data collected by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, older drivers are disproportionately represented when it comes to motor vehicle fatalities, even higher than teenagers, with 20 percent of all occupant fatalities associated with older drivers (age 65 or older) in 2012 alone.
Elderly Drivers Pose Significant Driving Risks
Aging drivers may represent a significant, heightened risk of injury to others. Risk factors include, but are not necessarily limited, to:
- Inability to accurately determine distance between vehicles
- Slow reaction times
- Inability to make safe driving decisions while processing intense stimuli, such as rain/snow and darkness
- Extreme and unexpected acceleration and deceleration
- Delayed turns and lane merges
- Failure to adhere to signage
- And more
Aging drivers must make reasonable efforts to minimize the risk of injury when they operate their vehicles. If the driver suffers from vision issues, they must ensure that they are wearing glasses or contact lenses before getting on the road. Similarly, if the driver requires a hearing aid, it could be dangerous for them to operate their vehicle without it.
Teenage drivers are subject to the same risk factors as other age groups, though as a general rule, teens tend to be less able to accurately recognize the danger in various situations. Teens are also less capable of making safe decisions during intense scenarios, leading to a higher incidence of collision.
Risk factors include, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Risky driving behaviors, such as trailing close behind other vehicles;
- Late night, low-visibility driving;
- Failure to wear seat belts;
- Intoxication and irresponsible driving;
- Speeding; and
- Distracted driving, such as while using a cell phone.
In Georgia, those injured by minors may be able to sue and recover damages from the parent (ostensibly, the owner) of the vehicle that caused your injuries. There are two ways in which to attach liability to the parents: through the family purpose doctrine, and through a negligent entrustment claim.
What is the Family Purpose Doctrine?
The family purpose doctrine allows you to hold a family member of the teenage driver responsible if:
- The family member owns or otherwise controls the vehicle;
- The vehicle was made available for the teenage driver to use;
- The teenage driver is a member of the defendant’s household; and
- The family member consented to the teenage driver’s use of the vehicle at-issue.
Negligent entrustment may allow you to sue and recover damages from the owner of the vehicle, so long as you can show that the owner of the vehicle consented to its use by the teenage driver, and that the owner was aware that the teenage driver was incompetent to drive (or represented a danger to others on the roadways, perhaps due to their history of accidents).
If the defendant-driver is an employee (who was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident), then you may be entitled to sue and recover damages from the employer. The doctrine of vicarious liability is plaintiff-friendly and allows plaintiffs to hold an employer accountable for the injuries caused by the negligence of their employees.
What to do Following a Car Accident in Atlanta
What you do during the hours, days and weeks following your car accident can have a significant impact on your claim case. It is wise to call an Atlanta car accident lawyer immediately for professional advice. Remember that your health is of utmost importance and should be your primary concern.
When you are involved in a car accident:
- Assess Your Injuries and Call For Medical Assistance: Note that you may not experience any pain or symptoms right away. This can be attributed to shock and adrenaline. Nonetheless, see a doctor as any delay could make your injuries worse.
- Call the Police: You should acquire a copy of the police report as soon as possible. If you are too hurt, you can call our office and let our lawyers handle this on your behalf.
- Take Pictures: Document your injuries and damages to your car or surrounding property. You can also photograph the scene of the accident, traffic lights, and road signs.
- Gather Information: Collect the other party’s contact information, insurer details, and vehicle registration information. You should also collect witnesses’ contact information.
- Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions: This involves filling out any prescriptions, getting prescribed tests, taking your medication, seeing recommended specialists, completing treatments, testing, and attending rehabilitation sessions.
- Keep Your Medical Records: These will be used to build your claim case.
- Contact Your Insurer: Report the incident without being too detailed. Don’t make any statements without first consulting your attorney.
- Avoid Posting: Posting details about your accident on social media can lead to you accidentally claiming fault for the incident when talking with friends, family, and others about the post.
- Work With an Attorney: Let your lawyer handle all other negotiations, witness statement gathering, and evidence collection.
Damages Available for Car Accident Cases in Georgia
Victims of car accidents in Georgia are eligible for compensation. Although no settlement can fully erase your misery, it can go a long way in protecting your financial future. In Georgia, the civil law system allows for two categories of damages. These are special damages (which are economical) and general damages.
Special damages in Atlanta include:
- Lost Wages or Time at Work: You may need to remain at home during your recovery. Consequently, you could lose your job or miss some salaries. Your compensation claim should be set to cover these situations.
- Lost Earning Ability: Your injuries may prevent you from performing the tasks of your old job. If they are severe or permanent, they may leave you unable to work altogether. In such an event, Atlanta laws provide that you get a settlement to cover basic living for the rest of your life.
- Current and Future Medical Expenses: This involves ambulance costs, diagnosis, treatment, hospital stays, and rehabilitation. For permanent injuries, this compensation extends to live-in aides and other life-long medical care costs.
- Property Damage: Any property repairs or replacements.
General damages, also known as non-economic damages, are losses with no monetary measure, such as:
- Emotional distress;
- Mental anguish;
- Pain and suffering;
- Psychological conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
- Diminished quality of life; and
- Missed opportunities in the workplace.
General damages can be hard to quantify and will depend almost entirely on expert witnesses, family statements, and the judge. For the best legal representation of your compensation case, call our Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers.
Georgia Implements the Modified Comparative Fault Doctrine
Georgia implements the doctrine of modified comparative fault, as opposed to the pure comparative fault doctrine or contributory negligence doctrine implemented by other jurisdictions.
So, what is the modified comparative fault?
Concerning personal injury, a modified comparative fault is a doctrine whereby each party’s contribution of negligence is identified, assessed, and assigned. Once each involved party has been assigned a percentage of the total fault, they are liable to the plaintiff for the corresponding portion of the damages. Under the comparative fault doctrine, even the plaintiff may be assigned a percentage of total fault (for example, if a plaintiff-driver was speeding at the time of the accident, they may have contributed to the accident, to a degree).
What “modified” comparative fault does, uniquely, is put a cap on the amount of fault that a plaintiff may be responsible for and still recover. Specifically, Georgia bars plaintiffs from recovering compensation in personal injury lawsuits where the plaintiff is 50% or more at-fault.
This can all be a bit confusing to understand without context, so let’s run through a brief example for clarity.
Suppose that you are involved in a car accident on an Atlanta highway, with one other driver — the defendant-driver — and your total damages are about $100,000. Though the defendant-driver was mostly at-fault for the accident (and your subsequent injuries), you were also somewhat negligent in that you were speeding, which contributed to the accident and seriousness of your injuries. Under the doctrine of modified comparative fault, the court must allocate fault to each involved party.
Now, suppose that the court finds that the defendant-driver is 80% at fault and that you — the plaintiff-driver — are 20% at fault. As the plaintiff, you would, therefore, be entitled to recover $80,000. The fact that you are somewhat at-fault is not an absolute bar to recovery but merely reduces your potential damage recovery.
If the court finds that the defendant-driver is 49% at-fault, on the other hand, and that you are 51% at-fault, then the modified comparative fault rule kicks in and will act as an absolute bar to recovery. As a Georgia plaintiff, if you are equally or more at-fault for your injuries, you cannot recover any compensation whatsoever. This is just one reason why having an experienced car accident attorney on your side is so important.
Underinsured and Uninsured Motorists in Atlanta
In many cases, the defendant-driver may lack car insurance altogether or they may be an “underinsured” motorist (i.e., they do not have adequate insurance coverage to pay out your damages). Motorists are increasingly “underinsured” as people drop their policy limits to lessen their monthly premiums. Unfortunately, it is injured plaintiffs who are hurt by the underinsured or uninsured status of defendant-drivers.
If you’ve been injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you’ll have to make an uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) claim against your insurer. If you intend to make a UM claim, be sure to notify your insurer about the accident as soon as possible to avoid running afoul of the notice deadline for the accident. As a general rule, however, you mustn’t discuss your claims or settle with the insurer before speaking with our qualified Atlanta car accident lawyer. As the plaintiff, the insurer’s interests are not aligned with your interest.
What happens if you do not have UM coverage, or if your UM coverage is inadequate to account for your damages? For example, if you have suffered $250,000 in total damages, but the defendant-driver has just $50,000 in insurance coverage, and you have just $50,000 in UM coverage, then you are essentially leaving $150,000 in potential compensation uncollected.
You have a few strategic options.
- You could — potentially — attack the personal assets of the defendant-driver. Though it is a general truism that defendants who are uninsured or underinsured tend to also lack personal assets, it may be the case that the defendant does have significant personal assets. If so (for example, if the defendant-driver has $100,000 in various accounts), you may be able to recover by attacking these assets.
- Your case may not be cut-and-dry and could involve multiple defendants, some of whom are more financially solvent or have more adequate insurance coverage. If you can bring in other legitimate defendants, you can — at the very least — secure compensation from additional parties (who have the means to pay such damages).
GET COMPENSATION NOW
To ensure that your case is litigated intelligently and to the extent necessary to secure a favorable result, call (404) 418-8507 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta, GA car accident lawyer here at Ponton Law.
Atlanta Auto Accident FAQs
Will I be allowed to recover damages if I’m partially at fault for my injuries?
Yes. Georgia implements modified comparative fault, which allows those plaintiffs who are partially at fault for their injuries to recover damages. There is a limitation, however. Modified comparative fault sets a hard cap of 50% liability. If you — the plaintiff — are found to be at least 50% at fault for your own injuries, then you will no longer be entitled to sue and recover damages pursuant to Georgia law.
What is negligence per se?
Negligence per se is automatic negligence. Normally, negligence must be shown by establishing the applicable “standard of care” for the circumstances and then proving that the defendant(s) violated that standard of care, thus causing you to suffer injuries.
Negligence per se does not require these steps, however. In Georgia, negligence may be assumed where the defendant has violated a law that was designed to prevent the type of conduct that the defendant was involved in. For example, if the defendant-driver is driving faster than the speed limit, their negligence can be assumed, as they violated the rules of the road.
Importantly, negligence per se does not necessarily lead to liability. As the plaintiff, you will have to show that the defendant’s negligence actually caused your injuries. In a speeding accident, for example, you would have to prove that the defendant driving at an excessive speed is what resulted in you suffering injuries.
How Do Actual and Proximate Cause Differ?
To show that the defendant was the actual cause of your injuries in a chain reaction accident, you will have to show that “but for” the defendant’s negligence, you would not have suffered an injury.
Proximate cause is all about foreseeability. Essentially, you will have to show that — not only were the defendant’s actions the “but for,” the actual cause of your injuries — but also that your injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligent conduct.
Will I be awarded punitive damages in my lawsuit?
Punitive damages are only infrequently awarded in personal injury cases, including car accident lawsuits. Generally speaking, punitive damages will be awarded when the defendant’s behavior is willful, malicious, or egregious to the extent that it will benefit society (by discouraging others from engaging in similar behavior) to punish the defendant with damages that go beyond the actual losses.
In the auto accident context, punitive damages may be awarded in a drunk driving collision, where it is clear that the defendant-driver demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety of others (i.e., clear intention to drive drunk, even before they consumed alcohol).
Is there a time limit for my auto accident claim?
Yes, there is. Georgia law imposes a two-year statute of limitations period for injury claims that begin to run from the date of injury. If you do not file your claims before the statute of limitations deadline runs out, then you will lose your right to recover damages in a Georgia court of law.
As such, it’s important that you consult with a qualified attorney soon after the accident at issue, so that you can file your claims on time.
What should I not do after a car accident?
DO NOT ADMIT FAULT
In Georgia, some of your statements may enter the police report as an admission of fault, so make sure to avoid doing so. Though the hearsay rule prevents the introduction of certain out-of-court statements into evidence, Georgia law sets out a number of exceptions, making it difficult to ascertain what statements will be used against you in a court of law. Instead of navigating the evidentiary minefield, it is best to keep conversation to the minimum necessary before you can consult with your attorney for further guidance.
AVOID SPEAKING WITH INSURERS
Insurance companies are not your allies. If you speak with your insurer without the assistance of an attorney, they will take advantage of the fact that you are not being represented by an attorney and will attempt to force you to make admissions that will minimize your potential claim for damages. Even in situations where liability is clear, the insurer may attempt to undermine your claim and negotiate a lower payout. Avoid speaking with insurers until you have consulted with an attorney. Your attorney will handle all communication with the insurer, and will push for a full and adequate payout.
DO NOT DELAY MEDICAL ATTENTION
In Georgia, as in other states, injury victims have a duty to mitigate their damages. In other words, you must make reasonable efforts to recover from your injuries. If you fail to do so, and you suffer from additional injuries (or worsened injuries) as a result of your failure to seek adequate medical help, then your damages claim could be reduced significantly. As such, it’s important that you avoid delaying medical attention. After the accident, make sure to go to a healthcare facility and have all the necessary diagnostic tests (and treatment) taken care of. If the defendant is found liable, they will have to pay for your medical expenses, so don’t worry about the cost.
DO NOT SELL OR JUNK YOUR CAR
Your vehicle is valuable evidence in a car accident lawsuit, so make sure not to junk it, sell it, repair it, or otherwise distribute it into another’s possession. For example, if there are no videos of the accident, and there are conflicting reports of how the collision occurred, investigators can use your vehicle to reconstruct the accident (and the impact forces involved), thus helping clarify the actual events that took place.
Protect Your Rights Today
If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident in Atlanta, you deserve to have your losses and injuries compensated. Our experienced Atlanta auto accident attorney can help you do just that. Contact us today for a free consultation.