Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
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 of 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 pursuant to 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.
To ensure that your case is litigated intelligently and to the extent necessary in order to secure a favorable result, call (404) 418-8507 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer here at Ponton Law.
Acts of Negligence Leading to 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 an 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
- 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 driver
- Negligent supervision of driver
- Scheduling drivers to a degree where they are fatigued and dangerous
- Improper cargo loading
- Inadequate inspection of vehicles
- Failure to maintain company vehicles
- And more.
Property owners — often public property owners, such as the City or State government — have a responsibility to maintain roadways in reasonably safe condition for drivers (and pedestrians) who access such roadways. Property owners in Atlanta may be held liable for negligence that includes, but is not limited, to:
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 modified comparative fault?
With respect to personal injury, 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. Pursuant to 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 premium. 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 own 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, it’s important that you do not discuss your claims or reach a settlement with the insurer before speaking with a qualified Atlanta car accident lawyer. As the plaintiff, the insurer’s interests are not aligned with your own interest.
If you were injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you’ll have to make an uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) claim against your own 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, it’s important that you do not discuss your claims or reach a settlement with the insurer before speaking with a qualified Atlanta car accident lawyer. As the plaintiff, the insurer’s interests are not aligned with your own 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.
First, 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.
Second, 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).