Georgia has over 1,200 miles of interstate highway within our state. If you were to drive every mile of interstate in Georgia, you could have driven from Atlanta to Washington D.C. and back.
Unfortunately, with all these roads comes a significant number of car accidents. According to the Department of Transportation, each year, approximately 833,089 people are involved in a car accident in Georgia, yet so many people don't know what to do if they are in a collision.
This is a step-by-step approach of what you should do if you are involved in a car accident in Georgia:
1. Make sure no one is hurt. If it is safe to leave your vehicle, check to make sure no one is hurt. If you notice that someone is injured, call 911 immediately. Never attempt to move a person you suspect has suffered a spinal cord injury unless the situation is an emergency -- doing so can cause permanent damage.
2. Call the police and if necessary, the paramedics. All too often I have clients call me to report that they were in a car accident, that they did not call the police, and now the responsible party is denying they were ever in an accident -- or worse, the other driver gave a fake phone number and has vanished. Always call the police if you see any vehicle damage, no matter how persuasive the other driver may be.
3. If you are hurt, don't be afraid to get checked out at the hospital. I always tell my clients it is better to be safe than sorry. Don't just assume the pain will go away with time. Sometimes the injury is more serious than you may think.
4. Take pictures of the property damage. The good news is that almost every cell phone these days is equipped with a camera. In between the time spent talking with the police, take a few pictures of the damage to your vehicle as well as the damage to the other vehicles in the accident. A zoomed-out picture of the layout of all the cars can also be helpful if liability is ever disputed in the future.
5. Report the accident to your insurance company. Did you know that if you fail to report your accident to your insurance company within a reasonable time that they can legally refuse to pay your claim. Never put off calling to report the claim. Keep a copy of your claim number, as well as the adjuster's name and phone number handy in your records.
6. Don't allow the insurance company to trick you into providing harmful or private information. The insurance company will almost immediately begin badgering you for a recorded statement and/or a signed medical release or authorization. It is imperative that you do not provide this information prior to speaking with an attorney. Some aggressive adjusters will try to get you to say something in a recorded statement that will ruin your case-- you may not even know that what are saying is wrong. A good lawyer should do all the talking for you. In addition, the insurance company has no legal right to your private medical information and you are under no obligation to sign their "required" medical authorization or provide your social security number.
7. Refuse to accept the insurance company's offer to settle the case immediately. Almost every client tells me that they received a call right after the accident from an insurance adjuster offering to settle the case immediately for a limited amount. While the quick money might sound nice, this is the insurance company's attempt to get you to sign a liability release before speaking to a lawyer and learning the true value of your case. Nothing hurts me more than when a person calls my office, explains that they took a quick settlement for $10,000 and now learns that they need a $100,000 back surgery. Unfortunately, I have to explain to them that there is nothing I can do.
8. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. I know what you are thinking: "I can't afford a lawyer." Good news, our firm works on a "contingency fee basis" which means that you don't owe us any money out of your pocket, period. Instead, we take a percentage of the final settlement -- allowing you to continue getting the medical treatment you need without worrying about paying expensive legal bills.
9. Get the necessary medical treatment. Getting better should always be your first priority. If you don't have health insurance, a lawyer can help you set up medical treatment on a lien paid entirely out of the proceeds of the settlement.
10. Settle the case and move on with your life. Settling a car accident case is a complicated process, if I can help you in any way, call or email me for a free case review and consultation.