You are making a great decision to learn more about your personal injury case. Being injured through the fault of another can create an immediate hardship in your life and create too many questions to easily deal with. This resource page will provide you all the information you need to help you navigate a personal injury case and decide:
If you have any additional questions after reading through this guide, please feel free to ask us. We are happy to provide some additional insight. As a disclaimer, this guide does not constitute specific legal advice and you should seek the personal counsel of an attorney before making any legal decisions. With that being said, we hope this guide will clear up your uncertainty and give you a better understanding of what is ahead of you.
In general, you should always consult with a personal injury lawyer after you have been in an automobile crash. Insurance companies are professionally trained to diminish the value of your case and force you into an early settlement. A personal injury lawyer equalizes the insurance company's advantage in the negotiation.
When you are considering whether to hire a personal injury attorney, consider some of these questions.
What type of injury did you sustain? If you were taken to the hospital, or a follow up doctor's visit revealed serious injuries in diagnostic testing, then you should absolutely consult an attorney. An example would be a broken bone, or bulged disc caused by whiplash.
In addition to seeking immediate medical treatment, you should be following the doctor’s orders for recovery. This is important for two main reasons: it gives you the best shot at a quick and safe recovery, and it shows you are in need of and committed to your recovery.
Is the at-fault insurance company fighting liability? Many times, insurance companies go against the findings by the responding police officer to try and help their insured - the at-fault driver. Sometimes, they may partially blame you for the crash, even when you had no fault at all. In this scenario, a personal injury attorney can help.
How recent was the accident? Georgia has a standard two-year limitation in which you need to file an action for injury to their person. If you fail to bring your claim within two years of the date of the crash, the court will deem your claim time-barred, meaning you can no longer recover.
Do you feel overwhelmed with constant medical bills? After a crash, you could easily incur over $7,500 in medical bills simply by taking an ambulance to the hospital for a brief evaluation. These bills will rise even further if you were admitted or surgery is required. A personal injury lawyer can assess your insurance plan's medical payment policy to determine if any immediate payment can be made prior to a settlement.
A personal injury case should not cost you anything out-of-pocket, just time and patience. Typically, personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, which means they are paid a percentage of the gross recovery from the case. That percentage ranges from 25% statutory for workers comp, up to 40% other personal injury cases. Personal injury attorneys should also front the cost to prosecute the case, such as cost to obtain medical records, filing fees, and expert testimony. Those costs are recouped by the law firm at the end of the case.
The fee charged should handle negotiation of the cost to repair or replace your car (property damage), gross settlement for your bodily and personal injuries, and negotiation of any and all liens related to the claim (such as health insurance liens). If an attorney seeks to charge you separately for each of these, or adds on additional fees (beyond the costs listed above), that is a red flag.
This is a common answer for questions regarding personal injury cases: it depends. It can take around 12-18 months, or sometimes longer. That is where your patience comes in. In general, personal injury cases should never be settled until you are fully recovered from your injuries, or your future medical treatment is well documented and affirmed to by your doctors. Because you have been injured by the fault of someone else, you should be paid for all of those injuries now, including any potential future surgery and treatments.
Sometimes, we are able to settle a case much faster than the average 12-18 months, but this strictly depends on the amount of insurance coverage that is available. For example, the at-fault party may only have $25,000 of coverage and does not have any assets to recover from. If your injuries far exceed that coverage within a few months following the incident, we may be able to resolve the case more quickly.
However, the legal system is slow. There are a number of hoops to jump through and time limits are set by statutes and judges. We will keep you informed of the status of your case, and whether we advise moving quickly or slowing the case down while you recover, all depending on your circumstances.
Yes! Be 100% forthright and honest with your attorney. First, make sure you vet your attorney before hiring them. But once you are working with them, it is their job to help assess everything about your case and do their best job to represent you. If there is information that comes out during a case (or trial) that they could have known before, it could undermine your entire case.
You are better off telling your attorney something you think may hurt your case so they can prepare for it, instead of letting them be caught by surprise later.
Keep a record of everything. Save medical receipts, save receipts from anything you need to buy due to the accident (repairs, quality of life, etc), and record any time you are missing work (and income). Keep a journal of how you are feeling, your pain (commonly called a “Pain Journal”), and what you are going through. This will be important for proving how the accident has affected your life and to “quantify” the amount of suffering you are going through. It may seem blunt to talk about your situation like that, but the goal is to give you the best chance at recovery.
This depends partly on your injuries. If you need to go to the Emergency Room, then please do so! What is important is that you visit a doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Your primary care provider or an orthopedic doctor are viable options, as long as they can fully examine you and document your injuries.
If you are covered by medical insurance, try to see an in-network doctor. This will help keep your upfront out-of-pocket costs down.
Every recommended appointment and follow-up after your initial observation. If you skip an appointment, you are effectively saying you don’t really need the medical attention, and that can undermine your case. Setup events and reminders in your calendar and plan accordingly so you can make your appointments.
Do not sign ANYTHING without a thorough review, preferably by a personal injury attorney. If you accept any kind of payment or reimbursement, or if you accept fault or responsibility for anything more than you should, that could have a detrimental effect on the outcome of your case. The insurance company is trying to pay the smallest amount possible to make a case go away. And they are going to do everything they can to make that happen. This may be the only time you have to deal with an insurance company, but they do this all the time. Do not underestimate their intentions.
The number one thing you can do to be prepared for a personal injury is to be healthy beforehand. Complete your physical every year (even better, every six months), get your bloodwork done, and take care of yourself. If an accident occurs, you can show definitive proof of the negative effects the accident had on you.