Our Roswell based personal injury law firm has handled numerous cases in the metropolitan Roswell area, and all over Georgia, involving serious injuries from car and truck accidents.
In fact, most of our Georgia clients come to us as referrals from past clients or other attorneys who have heard about the firm’s work in the area of serious auto and truck collisions. We are proud of our results and invite you to review what prior clients have said about our work on their auto and truck wreck claims. Not surprisingly, auto accidents are among the leading causes of injury for people each year in the United States. The rapid and widespread increase of technologies like cell phones, personal digital assistants, and navigation units have increased driver distraction and, unfortunately, increased the incidence of auto collisions. We hope that the below information will provide some helpful tips for those individuals who have been in an auto or truck collision.
What do I do after an Roswell car accident? Obviously, if you or someone else is injured, call 911 immediately and secure necessary medical care. If the parties to the wreck are medically stable, call the police and exchange insurance and registration information. If possible, take photographs of your car, the other car or cars involved in the accident, and the wreck scene. Make sure to tell the responding police officer all relevant facts that you can remember, as memories fade over time.
Should I talk to the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster? No. You have to remember that the insurance adjusters for the at-fault driver are not looking out for your best interests. Rather, their goal is to attempt to get you to give a statement, usually recorded, that they will later try to use against you if you say something different in the future. For example, your knee may not hurt the day of the wreck and if you tell the insurance adjuster that your knee is “fine” he or she will document that comment and remember it forever. You have now locked yourself into a position regarding the health of your knee. One day after the wreck, your knee may start to hurt or swell and you may discover a ligament tear which requires surgery. What now? You have already told the adjuster that your knee was “fine” so the insurance company will fight you at every step, trying to paint you as someone who does not tell the truth or who is exaggerating the injury. Always retain a lawyer before contacting the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
When should I retain a lawyer after a car or truck wreck? As soon as possible. The first and most important thing to focus on after the wreck is your health and the health of your family; however, it is good practice to retain an injury attorney as soon as you can. Why? Often, critical evidence needs to be preserved. For example, at times, it is crucial to preserve the actual car, even if it is deemed “totaled.” Also, many cars are equipped with electronic data recorders (muck like an airplane’s ‘black box’) and it may be necessary to secure the data in order to prove your case. Next, in truck wreck cases, vital pieces of information like the electronic data from the truck, driver’s logs, and bills of lading need to be secured in order to investigate the actions of the at-fault truck driver.
If my passenger is injured, can he or she go after the at-fault driver’s insurance company? Yes. Most insurance companies provide limits which look something like “$100,000/$300,000”— This means that there is $100,000 available per person, up to $300,000 total if three or more people are injured in the wreck. Therefore, your passenger(s) have additional money available separate and apart from whatever you recover.
Do I sue the at-fault driver or owner of the car if they are different people? It depends. Generally, you sue the driver of the at-fault car. After all, he is the one who was negligent and caused the wreck. If the driver has insurance, his insurance will join with the insurance applicable to the vehicle (ie, the vehicle owner’s insurance) and potentially provide much more coverage than usual. You do not need to sue the owner of the car in order to access the owner’s insurance. The insurance which covers the car will still usually apply even though the car owner was not driving at the time of the wreck. Sometimes, you need to sue both the driver of the car and the owner of the car. For instance, if the owner of the car knew that the driver of the car was a habitually bad or dangerous driver, it is possible that the owner of the car would be liable under a “negligent entrustment” theory for allowing his car to be driven by a negligent or reckless driver.
Are cars in Georgia required to have insurance? Yes. O.C.G.A. 33-34-4 requires cars registered and operated in Georgia to have bodily injury and property insurance. Cars must carry at least $25,000 in per person coverage according to O.C.G.A. 33-7-11. Of course, we suggest to our clients that they purchase higher amounts of liability insurance in order to fully protect themselves and their assets in case of a serious wreck.
What is Medical Payment (“Med Pay”) coverage? This is coverage under your own insurance policy which provides reimbursement for medical bills after an accident. This type of coverage is not required under Georgia law, but it is a good idea to have it. Med Pay is also available to the passengers of the vehicle whose owner has a Med Pay policy. Note that you do not get Med Pay coverage from the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver’s insurance policy tenders “bodily injury” coverage. Med Pay is coverage which you can secure from your own insurance company and it is paid regardless of whether you caused the Roswell car accident or not.
What is Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage? UM insurance is provided by your own insurance company, not the at-fault driver. O.C.G.A. 33-7-11. UM coverage protects you and your family against a negligent or reckless driver who does not have liability insurance coverage or who has insufficient insurance coverage to fully compensate you for the injuries suffered in the wreck. How does UM coverage provide benefits to you? Your own insurance carrier would pay any amount necessary (by settlement or jury verdict) in excess of the amount of liability coverage, up to the limits of the policy which you purchased.
How does UM Coverage work in the real world? Until recently, the insurance company providing UM coverage received a “set-off” equal to the amount of liability coverage. In other words, if you were injured by someone who had $50,000 in liability coverage and you had $50,000 in UM coverage, the UM coverage would receive a set-off (they would get to deduct) of $50,000, meaning the UM coverage was $0. Thus, the total amount of money you could recover under that scenario is $50,000. Fortunately, in 2009, the Georgia legislature passed new UM laws which allow consumers to choose what is known as “add-on” UM coverage. The new coverage allows you to add on your UM coverage to the at-fault liability coverage. Thus, if you are injured by someone who has $50,000 in liability coverage and you have $50,000 in UM coverage, the UM coverage would be added on, meaning there would be $100,000 in total insurance coverage available. Also, there may be multiple UM policies available, depending upon how many cars are uninsured, how the policies are written, and the number of resident relatives who reside in the home. Generally, the best practice is to have a lawyer determine the amount of insurance coverage available. We highly encourage our clients to choose ad-on coverage. UM insurance is relatively inexpensive but it is vitally important if you are involved in a serious auto accident with a driver who has little or no insurance.
I was hit by a drunk/intoxicated driver. What kind of damages can I recover? In addition to lost income, medical bills, and pain/suffering damages, drunk/intoxicated drivers are liable for punitive damages. O.C.G.A. 51-12-5.1 provides that when behavior is reckless or demonstrates a conscious disregard for the consequences, punitive damages are appropriate. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the wrongdoer and deter future similar conduct. When drugs or alcohol are involved, punitive damages are not capped; in other words, the jury is free to award as much as they determine is appropriate under the circumstances. In most other cases justifying punitive damages, but where drugs or alcohol are not involved, the cap on the amount which may be awarded is $250,000. In hit and run cases, for example, the Georgia Court of Appeals has explained why punitive damages are appropriate.Langlois v. Wolford, 246 Ga. App. 209 (2000).
The driver who hit me wasn’t drunk or on drugs, but his behavior was outrageous. Can I recover punitive damages? Maybe. As noted above, where the at-fault driver’s conduct is reckless or demonstrates a conscious indifference to the consequences, punitive damages may be awarded. Outrageous behavior may well allow for punitive damages. For example, in Smith v. Tommy Roberts Trucking Co., 209 Ga. App. 826 (1993), the trucking company knew that the employee drivers often exceeded the speed limit in order to make deliveries, yet the company did nothing about it. In J.B. Hunt Transport v. Bentley, 207 Ga. App. 250 (1992), the driver kept driving his truck despite knowledge that it had a significant mechanical issue.
I have health insurance, should I have my health insurance billed for medical care after the wreck or should I wait for the at-fault driver’s insurance to pay? Bill your health insurance. Part of the advantage of group health insurance is that you pay negotiated rates. For example, if you suspect that you may have a herniated disc after an accident, you need an MRI. MRIs may cost $1,400 to $1,600 if you are paying out of pocket. However, if you have a group health insurance plan, the negotiated rate may be $500, of which you only pay the co-pay or perhaps a deductible. You may claim the full $1,400 to $1,600 (depending upon what the actual charge is) as part of your injury claim because that is the full value of the medical service, even though you are actually out of pocket much less than that. I have had clients who have been able to present in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills to the at-fault insurance company even though they actually paid far less than that. Why? Georgia law does not allow a negligent party to get a “benefit” just because the person he injures has health insurance. In other words, if you need an MRI as a result of a collision, you are entitled to reimbursement for the full cost of the service ($1,400 to $1,600) even though you have health insurance. The same is true for back surgery. You may require a back surgery which costs $75,000 to $100,000, of which you may only pay pennies on the dollar due to health insurance. Yet, you can claim the full price of the surgery from the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
Someone called me within hours or a few days of my wreck, saying that they represent an attorney’s office, and I didn’t ask anyone to call—who are they? These people are called “runners” and when they call you uninvited or show up at the hospital, they are doing something illegal. Unfortunately, some law firms engage in reprehensible behavior and try to take advantage of people who have been seriously injured or who have lost loved ones in a car accident. These firms have people contact grieving families on their behalf and offer legal services. This practice is not allowed, yet it is difficult to catch the people who engage in this behavior. You wouldn’t select a surgeon who showed up at your house or called you, offering his services; rather, you would research who the best surgeons are, ask friends, and perhaps do some looking on the internet. We suggest you do the same types of things before you hire an attorney. We are proud of our results and even more proud about what our prior clients have to say about our work. There are, of course, plenty of good, honest attorneys who are available to help you—don’t fall into the hands of someone who has to do something illegal to get your business.
My family member was hurt in a transport van, being taken to or from a nursing home or rehabilitation facility. Who is responsible? Often, loved ones are in the care of a nursing home, assisted living facility, or rehabilitation center. These residents frequently need to be transported to outside medical care providers, such as physicians’ offices and dialysis centers. Instead of providing their own transportation (which does sometimes occur), facilities will contract with transportation brokers to pick up, transport, and return their residents to/from outside appointments. This practice is so common that the State of Georgia has numerous regulations which cover the conduct of these transportation companies and drivers. Drivers must abide by certain codes of conduct (i.e. no cell phone use while driving and properly restraining passengers) and their employers must ensure that drivers are appropriately trained. When a collision involving a commercial transport van or truck occurs, there are numerous individuals and companies who/which may be responsible. First, if a driver negligently hits the commercial transport van, obviously that driver may be legally responsible. Likewise, if the transport driver is at-fault for the collision, he/she (and the employer) may be responsible for the injuries. Also, if the driver fails to properly restrain the passengers, either in the wheelchair or with proper seat belts, the driver/employer may be liable for any injuries caused. Finally, in certain circumstances, the facility that hires the transport company may be liable for the injuries caused in the collision.
CAR ACCIDENT RESULTS
O.B. $1,050,000.00(Dram Shop / Drunk Driving Collision) We secured this policy limit settlement on behalf of an Roswell Police DUI Task Force Officer who was critically injured by a drunk driver. Through discovery, we were able to prove that the driver had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol at a local sports bar and had been served drinks by a bartender with whom he had a personal relationship. After leaving the bar, the drunk driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with our client, who was monitoring traffic from his police car on the side of the highway. Our client made a remarkable recovery, but the insurance company elected to tender the entire policy limit rather than face a trial.
R.S. $650,000(Client in rear-end collision on highway who suffered brain injury, loss of his spleen, and multiple fractured ribs) Our client’s car was rear-ended at highway speeds by an SUV on I-575 in Cherokee County, Georgia. While the at-fault driver was not given a traffic citation in connection with this wreck, we were able to track down a key eyewitness who helped us establish our case. Our client substantially recovered from his brain injury; however, we secured enough money to take care of his future medical and income needs.
We represented a woman from Roswell, Georgia who was thrown from her motorcycle while riding in Chattooga County, Georgia. A wheel from a trailer traveled across the highway and struck our client’s bike, throwing her to the ground. Through discovery, we were able to show that the trailer was improperly loaded and unsafe for use on the roadway. Our client suffered a bimalleolar ankle fracture, requiring two surgeries and many rehabilitation sessions. Despite the fact that this matter was litigated in one of the most conservative venues in the State of Georgia, State Farm Insurance Company elected to settle the case a few days before trial.
N. Family $208,500(Family of five hit by a drunk driver, with three people suffering physical injuries) Our clients’ total medical expenses were approximately $15,000 after this collision. We were able to secure a settlement of approximately fourteen times that amount by proving the egregious conduct of the drunk driver and locating key eyewitnesses.
K. S. Insurance Policy Limits(Drunk driving / Car wreck) Our firm represented a high school girl who was seriously injured when a drunk driver struck her car. The child suffered severe leg injuries, requiring surgeries and rehabilitation. Through in-depth discovery, we were able to uncover multiple applicable insurance policies and a substantial Medical Payments policy.
J.K. Insurance Policy Limits(Drunk driving / Fatality) Our law firm represented the family of an aspiring country music singer who was killed by a drunk driver in Henry County, Georgia. The singer was returning home late at night from a concert and was tragically killed when a driver, who was already on parole, crossed a double yellow line and caused a catastrophic wreck. Our law firm was honored to represent this family. We were also honored that a lawyer against whom we had previously litigated a brain injury case, suggested our firm as counsel for the family.