Common Questions About Atlanta Personal Injury Lawsuits
Our attorneys answer frequently asked questions on topics such as personal injury cases, motor vehicle accidents, insurance claims and settlements, as well as general legal questions. Browse our extensive list of questions to find the answers you are looking for.
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Should I Post On Social Media During My Lawsuit?
Snapchat. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Every day, most of us capture some part of our lives or thoughts on one or more of these social media platforms. And, because social media documents a part of our lives, if you suffer harm or an injury and file a lawsuit, your social media could be used as evidence in that lawsuit. So, it is important for you to know what to do (and not do) with your social media during a lawsuit.
Why Does Social Media Use Matter?
The short answer to why your social media use and posts matter is those posts could be evidence in your lawsuit. Destroying any evidence, including social media posts, can severely harm your case, and may cause you to lose your case completely.
Once a lawsuit is filed, each side begins a process called discovery. Discovery is a way for each side in the lawsuit to find out what information the other side has, both information that helps and hurts their case. This includes information on your social media accounts. If one side destroys (or deletes) information (evidence) that is relevant to the lawsuit, the other side can seek sanctions because of the spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence is legalese for destroying or failing to preserve evidence when you know a lawsuit may be filed or a lawsuit has been filed.
Our court system depends upon each side in a lawsuit playing fair for the system to work properly. Because fairness is important, spoliation of evidence is a big deal. And because it is a big deal, the sanctions (or, to use another word, punishment) for destroying evidence can be severe. Your case could be dismissed. You could be fined. Or, the judge could give the jury an instruction to act as if the destroyed evidence had been presented and that evidence was damaging to your case. (This is known as an adverse inference instruction.)
The case of Heather Painter gives a good example of what can happen to your case when you delete social media posts. Painter filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her boss. During the process of filing the lawsuit, Painter deleted all of her Facebook posts about her boss and her job. Because Painter was Facebook friends with her boss’ wife before the lawsuit, Painter’s boss knew she had a Facebook account and had commented about her job on Facebook. The lawyer for Painter’s boss asked for those Facebook posts as evidence that the work environment was not as bad as Painter claimed in her lawsuit. But because the posts were deleted, that evidence no longer existed.
Though the court could have dismissed Painter’s case as sanctions for destroying the evidence, the judge chose a less severe sanction. The judge ordered that an adverse inference instruction be given at trial, meaning the jury would have to assume the deleted posts would have helped the defense.
What Should You Do with Your Social Media Before or During a Lawsuit?
- Don’t delete anything! A good lawyer can work to lessen any harm your past social media posts might cause your case. Deleting posts, pictures, etc., could harm your case in ways no one can fix! (For instance, if your claim is dismissed by the court with prejudice as a sanction for deleting Facebook posts, you would never be able to seek compensation for that claim again.)
- Keep using social media in the same way you did before the lawsuit, but be careful about what you post. Assume anything you post could end up as evidence in court.
- Use privacy settings to limit what can be viewed by someone who is not your friend. Be careful about accepting friend requests from people you do not know in real life because fake profiles can be used to obtain information only friends have access to.
- Do not assume a message sent through Snapchat actually disappears. Screenshots can be captured and used as evidence. In recent years, murder and sexual assault cases have been proven because someone saved a screenshot of a Snapchat message and those screenshots were used as evidence. Treat Snapchat the same way you would Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. If the content of a message could hurt your case, don’t send it.
Suffering an injury can take many things away from you. It does not have to take away your use of social media. But, you need to be wise in how you use it. And, when you need counsel to help you navigate life after an injury, we are here to help.
How to File Auto Claims with State Farm
The stress of being in a car accident can continue to build on itself when you realize all of the necessary actions you must take in order to care for injuries and get car repairs. From reporting an insurance claim to making sure you are offered the right settlement to apply to your damages—it’s exhausting. If you work with State Farm in your car accident case, you will be dealing with a very large insurance company that provides more home and auto coverage than any other insurance provider in the country. To file an auto claim with State Farm, you have several options to choose from. You can call their 800-STATE-FARM number, use the Pocket Agent App, or contact your agent directly. If State Farm is your insurance company, you can also log into your current account with State Farm and begin the process of submitting the claim. Once you’ve submitted the claim, a State Farm representative will contact you to go over your claim. They will explain the specific type of coverage available for your accident, as well as process the claim. You will then be able to track your claim through your online account, if you have one.
Determining Liability & The Investigation After The Accident
One of the most important steps in any car accident claim is determining liability—that is, who is at fault for the accident. Georgia uses the modified comparative fault rule when determining fault in automobile accidents. For example, if you are speeding down the road and someone negligently pulls out in front of you, State Farm may determine that it’s 90 percent the other driver’s fault, but that you are 10 percent at fault for speeding. The way that this factors into insurance claims is important to understand. Based on the percentage of fault, if any, the insurance company will deduct that ten percent from your determined settlement. However, you may not be able to recover damages if you are 50% or more at fault.
When State Farm has finished their investigation into your accident, they will assess the damages to the car and any other property damage, as well as any personal injury damages. In this step, there are two kinds of damages that are taken into account. There are general damages and special damages.General damages are specified as noneconomic damages like pain and suffering which are difficult to calculate the monetary value. Special damages are economic losses like property damage, wage loss, and medical expenses. There types of damages are often easier to accurately estimate.
The Importance Of Properly Communicating Your Assessment Of Damages
Unlike many other insurance companies, State Farm employs their own method of assessing monetary value to these damages. While this is a positive because that means your settlement is being calculated by a real person who is learning about your personal experience and not a machine, it becomes even more important that you are cautious when giving a statement to State Farm. Because the extent of your injuries cannot be realized immediately following the auto accident, you should be careful not to minimize the severity of your injuries, as this can affect the resulting settlement you are offered.
Too often, the settlement offered is nowhere near the appropriate amount for covering medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In the event that this happens to you, you have a right to contact an attorney to help you towards receiving proper compensation. Of course, it is always best to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident, even before you get to the settlement process.
We don’t want you to have a negative view of State Farm, whether it is your insurance company or the other driver’s, but we want you to be aware of the instances that can take place in the claims process that—more often than not—will not tip in your favor. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury from a car accident, you have the right to contact an attorney who can go over your case and determine the proper settlement value. You need to focus on your own recovery and let us take care of the rest. The Champion Firm, P.C. can help you. Give us a call today and let’s get started on getting you the right settlement for your personal injury case.
Filing a Nationwide Car Accident Claim
Nationwide is one of the largest insurance companies in the United States. It provides a variety of different types of insurance, including car insurance. While the Nationwide name is well known, you may not be aware that there are a variety of different Nationwide affiliated companies, including ALLIED, AMCO, and Scottsdale. If you are facing a car accident claim involving Nationwide as either your insurance company or the other driver’s, you may be wondering whether Nationwide will truly be “on your side.” In our experience, Nationwide is one of the better insurance companies in handling car accident claims and offering fair value for both personal injury and property damage claims. However, that does not mean that you should let your guard down in dealing with Nationwide’s adjusters. As with any insurance company, Nationwide’s goal will be to close your file as cheaply as possible.
Opening A Claim With Nationwide
If the at-fault driver in your car accident has insurance with Nationwide, you will want to contact Nationwide to open a claim. Nationwide’s website has a page that explains how to open a claim with them. The website has a link for you to open a claim online, or you can call the toll free claims number at 1-800-421-3535. When I did a test of the online claims process, it would not allow me to open a personal injury a claim online. Instead, it directed me to the claims number and instructed me to call to set up the claim. This is just one reason why you need a personal injury attorney on your side. Insurance adjusters are trained and experienced in getting injured people to say things that can hurt their case and ultimately minimize the amount of money Nationwide has to pay out for your claim.
Nationwide’s Investigation Of Your Claim
After your claim has been opened, a Nationwide adjuster will be assigned to investigate your claim. The Nationwide adjuster will attempt to gather the facts about your accident, and explain any insurance coverages that are available. If an adjuster contacts you or if you end up speaking to one while opening the claim, do not give a recorded statement, especially if you have not consulted with an attorney yet. Hopefully you will have already consulted with and retained a personal injury attorney by the time an adjuster contacts you, but if you have not, be careful in what you say. It can come back to hurt you later.
There is one exception to the general advice not to give a recorded statement. If you are insured with Nationwide and you are opening a claim under your insurance policy, you may need to comply with any requests for information and statements because your Nationwide policy may require that you cooperate with the insurer in its investigation of the case.
Property Damage Claims With Nationwide
The first order of business for Nationwide will be to handle your property damage claim. This is one of the most urgent aspects of a car accident claim because people need their cars to get around. This is especially true in metro Atlanta as many people use their cars to commute to and from work. Nationwide may have one adjuster for your property damage claim and one for your bodily injury claim, or one adjuster may handle both claims.
If Nationwide is the insurer for the other driver and liability is clear, it may arrange for a rental car for you to drive while your other vehicle is repaired or replaced. If you are the one insured with Nationwide, then you may or may not be entitled to a rental car depending on the coverage you purchased with the insurance company.
Assuming your vehicle is not totaled after the adjuster or a body shop inspects your car, your car will be repaired. Nationwide should be responsible for paying for all of the property damage if it insured the at-fault driver and he or she was 100% at fault. If you have Nationwide and are using your own insurance to handle property damage, you may have to pay a deductible, depending on your policy.
It is important to remember that you may be entitled to diminished value for your vehicle if it is repairable. A diminished value claim is based on the fact that your car is worth less because it was involved in an accident. The amount of a diminished value claim depends on a number of factors, including the make and model of the car, its condition, the car’s mileage, and the amount of damage.
Bodily Injury Claims With Nationwide
If you were injured, you should absolutely hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can look out for your interests and make sure your rights are protected. Our firm takes cases on a contingency fee, which means we get paid a percentage of what we get for you. If we do not get you anything for your personal injury then you do not owe us anything. There is no risk for you, and the benefits of having a personal injury attorney on your side are numerous.
Whether you hire an attorney or not, you will not want Nationwide to settle your personal injury claim until after you are done with medical treatment. This is important because once you settle your case you cannot go back for more. You will want to make sure you have fully recovered from your injuries and that the full amount of your damages is known so that you can get full value for your case.
In any personal injury case you are entitled to two broad categories of damages: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages include things like lost wages and medical expenses. Noneconomic damages include items that are not capable of a precise economic measure, such as pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor. While Nationwide may be in agreement with you on the value of your economic damages, do not be surprised if it disagrees with your opinion on the value of your noneconomic damages. Insurance companies, even Nationwide, are notorious for low-balling injured people on their pain and suffering damages. This is particularly true in cases involving soft tissue injuries to the neck and back.
If your personal injury claim with Nationwide is settled it will require that you sign a release that releases Nationwide and its policyholder from any and all further liability. Releases can be tricky, and the language in the release could come back to hurt you if you are not fully aware of your rights. This is yet another reason to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you.
What if you are injured and you have insurance with Nationwide? Are you entitled to any benefits under your own car insurance policy? The answer to this question depends on the type of coverage you purchased. You may have a few different types of coverage that you can use. One type would be medical payments coverage, which can be used to help pay your medical bills resulting from the accident. Another type may be uninsured motorist coverage, which would come into play if the at-fault driver either had no insurance or not enough insurance. If you have questions about your Nationwide insurance policy, you can give us a call for a free consultation.
After any car accident it is important that you speak with a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle your claim and make sure you receive full compensation. We have taken on all the big insurance companies, including Nationwide, and we will fight for you. Contact The Champion Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation about your car accident claim.
How to File a USAA Car Insurance Claim
The United Services Automobile Association, more commonly known as USAA, is a Texas-based financial services company that only allows current or former members of the Armed Services, and their family members, to join. Among the services USAA provides is automobile insurance. If you have USAA insurance, you are probably familiar with the company’s reputation for great customer service. While USAA’s reputation for great customer service may be well deserved, do not let this allow you to become complacent when dealing with USAA. USAA, like all other insurance companies, wants to save as much money as possible when paying out claims.
Opening A Claim With USAA
If you are involved in a Georgia car accident with another driver who has USAA car insurance, or if you yourself have USAA, then you will need to contact USAA to set up a claim. USAA’s claims phone number is 1-800-531-8722. If you are a USAA member, you can log in to your account at USAA.com to report your claim and track its status.
Once a claim has been opened a USAA adjuster will be assigned to investigate and handle your claim. The USAA adjuster will likely call you to get your version of events. It is generally not a good idea to give a recorded statement to another driver’s insurance company. But if USAA is your insurance company you will need to comply with any requests for information, including requests for statements. This is because your insurance policy with USAA, like all insurance policies, has a cooperation clause that says you must cooperate with the insurance company.
Property Damage vs. Bodily Injury Claims
Car accident claims generally involve two components: the property damage claim and the bodily injury claim. Some insurance companies assign separate adjusters to handle each claim, while others use the same adjuster to handle both the property damage and bodily injury claims. If you have USAA insurance and have medical payments coverage, USAA will likely assign a med pay adjuster to process your medical bills.
Property damage claims are normally handled before bodily injury claims. The reason for this is simple. Property damage claims are normally straightforward and definite. It is frequently clear shortly after the accident what the value of the claim is. On the other hand, the full value of a bodily injury claim may not be known for months or years as the injured party receives medical treatment for their injuries.
For your property damage claim, USAA may send a field adjuster to inspect your vehicle, or it may simply ask you to take it to a local body shop and get an estimate. If your vehicle is totaled, it will offer you the actual cash value of your vehicle. If your car is repairable, it will pay for your car repairs and for any diminished value damages. Regardless of whether your car is totaled or is being repaired, you should ask USAA to pay for your rental car while your car is unavailable.
Once your property damage claim is resolved, you can worry about recovering for your injuries. If you are submitting bills to USAA medical payments coverage, you should be aware that USAA can be difficult to deal with on these claims. In our experience, USAA scrutinizes medical bills for payment under med pay coverage probably more than any other insurance company. USAA frequently challenges the reasonableness of the charges and whether the medical treatment was a result of the accident. USAA also frequently requires excessive documentation and records in an effort to challenge the claims. USAA will likely use a physician or chiropractor to review your records and determine whether med pay provides coverage.
If you are dealing with USAA’s liability coverage for your bodily injury claim, then you should not go it alone. It is always a good idea to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side if you are injured. If you are handling the claim yourself, then you should make sure you are fully aware of all the damages you are entitled to claim and what a fair amount for each category of damages. A frequent source of disagreement when USAA handles a bodily injury claim is the value of a lost wage claim and pain and suffering damages.
If you try to settle the claim yourself and you reach a settlement, then USAA will ask that you sign a release. This is just one of the many reasons you need a personal injury attorney on your side. The language included in the release can harm your ability to recover further damages, especially if you need to make an uninsured motorist claim.
If you are a USAA insured and are dealing with USAA’s uninsured motorist coverage, then the same advice applies: Get an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you.
If you were involved in a Georgia car accident and USAA is involved, contact the experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. for a free consultation. We can help ensure that you are getting full and fair compensation for your case.
Car Accident Claims with Progressive
Personal injury claims should never be handled alone, ever. You need a personal injury attorney representing your interests if you were hurt. This is particularly true when dealing with Progressive. We have seen Progressive try to pull out every trick in the book to avoid full responsibility for paying an injured person’s damages.
Assessing The Value Of Your Claim
In any personal injury claim, including car accidents, the value of your claim depends on your damages. Damages normally include both economic and non-economic components. Economic damages include medical bills and lost wages, in addition to other out of pocket costs. Economic damages are normally easier to measure because they have a specific dollar amount. Nevertheless, Progressive may dispute the amount your doctors charged for your medical bills by claiming the charges were not “reasonable and customary.” If this argument sounds absurd, it is. You do not have control over what your doctor charges, and Georgia law says you are entitled to claim the full amount of your medical bills. You do not need to have a billing expert prove that the charges were “reasonable.”
Progressive may also challenge the amount of your lost wages using a variety of tactics. For example, it may argue that you cannot claim lost wages if you cannot produce a written note from a doctor holding you out of work. This is not true. It may also try to argue you cannot claim lost wages if you received compensation for your missed time from work through a disability policy or by using sick leave or PTO days.
In addition to your economic damages, the other category of damages you are entitled to claim is non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, bodily disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor. These damages are not capable of an exact measurement like economic losses are. This can result in broad differences in opinion on the value of these damages. Not surprisingly, Progressive will downplay your non-economic damages and argue you are entitled to little or no money for these damages. Do not be surprised if Progressive tries to offer you hundreds of dollars, or maybe even a few thousand dollars, for your pain and suffering damages. We have seen cases where Progressive has tried to pay $1,000 or less in cases that involved moderate injuries that were worth many times more than what Progressive offered.
You should never try to determine the total amount of your damages and settle your personal injury claim before you are done receiving medical treatment. When you complete treatment, you (and hopefully the personal injury attorney you hired) can discuss how much your case is worth and how much to demand. Once the demand is sent to Progressive asking for a specific amount of money, the Progressive adjuster handling your claim will review the demand. In response, the adjuster will either pay it or make a counteroffer.
Don't Take The Quick Settlement
Progressive will want you to sign a release if it reaches a settlement with you. The type of release you sign and the language that should be in the release depends on a number of factors. If you sign the wrong release you could potentially be losing the opportunity for additional compensation.
If Progressive is your insurance company, you may have a couple of different types of coverage that can provide benefits for your injury claim. One of these is uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage can be used if the at-fault driver either has no insurance or not enough insurance to pay all of your damages. You may also have medical payments coverage—commonly referred to as “med pay.” Med pay is basically health insurance for you if you are in a car accident. It can be used to pay your medical bills, regardless of what was at fault.
If you are in a Georgia car accident, you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Whether the at-fault driver’s insurance company is Progressive or some other insurer, the insurance company’s number one objective will be to pay you as little money as possible. Contact the experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation about your accident case.
Car Accident Claims with Liberty Mutual
Liberty Mutual is a large insurance company that issues different types of policies, including auto, home, life, and renters insurance. One of Liberty Mutual’s subsidiaries is Safeco, which is a fairly well known insurance company as well. If you are in a car accident and have insurance with Liberty Mutual insurance or one of its subsidiaries, or if the other driver has Liberty Mutual, you may be wondering what to expect. Will Liberty Mutual handle my claim fairly? Will Liberty Mutual offer me a fair settlement? All insurance companies, Liberty Mutual included, want to close your claim for as little money as possible. This is one of the many reasons why you need a personal injury attorney on your side after an accident. We have represented a number of clients who have had claims with Liberty Mutual. In our experience, Liberty Mutual is one of the worst for evaluating personal injury claims fairly. Liberty Mutual will frequently try to argue that the charges for your medical expenses are not reasonable and customary, and they will try to offer pennies on the dollar for your pain and suffering. Here are some things you should know if you are dealing with Liberty Mutual after a car accident.
Opening a Claim with Liberty Mutual
If the person who caused the crash has Liberty Mutual you can call Liberty Mutual at 1-800-2CLAIMS (1-800-225-2467) to set up a claim. A Liberty Mutual representative will open the claim and ask you a series of questions. For example, the representative will ask you for the insurance policy number for the person who caused the accident, their name and contact info, any witness information, whether anybody was injured, and other basic information about the accident.
If you have Liberty Mutual insurance yourself and are opening a claim under your own policy, you also have the option of opening the claim online through Liberty Mutual’s website. The online claims page gives you the option to track the claim once it has been opened.
Liberty Mutual’s Investigation of Your Claim
Once the claim has been opened Liberty Mutual will assign a claim number and an insurance adjuster to handle the claim. Liberty Mutual may use one adjuster for property damage and one for the personal injury side of the claim. Liberty Mutual will likely want to take your recorded statement. Do not give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company, ever! Liberty Mutual will try to use the recorded statement to get you to say something that will hurt your claim. While you should never give the other driver's insurance company a record statement, a different rule may apply if you are dealing with Liberty Mutual as your own insurance company. If you have Liberty Mutual then your insurance policy’s cooperation clause may require you to give a recorded statement to your own insurance company.
In addition to trying to take your recorded statement, Liberty Mutual will likely try to contact other witnesses to the accident to get their version of events. If you are representing yourself—which, again, you should not be doing—the adjuster will try to get you to sign a medical authorization so he or she can get your medical records. The adjuster may also try to get you to sign an employment authorization so they can get your employment records.
Property Damage Claims with Liberty Mutual
In almost all car accident claims the property damage side is handled before the personal injury claim. Georgia law allows insurers to resolve the property damage claim while leaving the personal injury claim open, which helps expedite your efforts to get your car repaired or replaced while you recover from your injuries. Liberty Mutual may send a field adjuster to appraise your vehicle’s damage, or it may simply request that you take it to a body shop and get an estimate. Depending on the amount of damage the insurance company may just accept the body shop’s estimate.
The person who caused the accident is responsible for paying for your property damage, as well as the damages from the loss of use of your vehicle. This means the other driver’s insurance company is responsible for putting you in a rental car while your vehicle is repaired or replaced. However, if you are going through your own insurance policy’s property damage coverage, you may or may not be entitled to a rental car. That will depend on whether you purchased rental car coverage under your own policy.
If your vehicle is repairable then Liberty Mutual should pay for all the property damage you sustained. If it is totaled it should pay you for the actual cash value of your vehicle. Whenever your vehicle is repaired, Georgia law says you may be entitled to diminished value. The premise behind a diminished value claim is simple. Whenever your car is damaged in a crash it is worth less because of the damage. The amount of a diminished value claim depends on a number of factors, including the make and model of the car, its condition, the car’s mileage, and the amount of damage.
Personal Injury Claims with Liberty Mutual
Hopefully you have hired a personal injury attorney if you were injured. You do not want to be in a position where you are dealing with Liberty Mutual alone. Liberty Mutual will do its best to take advantage of your lack of knowledge of the claims process and will do whatever it can to save money by paying you less than what your claim is worth.
One of the things that Liberty Mutual does when dealing with personal injury claims is that it evaluates the medical bills to see if they are “reasonable and customary.” If Liberty Mutual’s billing program determines the charges for your medical expenses are “too high,” then it will not offer you the full amount of your medical bills. Instead, it will offer you an amount that it thinks is “reasonable.” We have had Liberty Mutual try to use this ridiculous tactic multiple times, even for medical charges from reputable Atlanta hospitals and doctors. The bottom-line is that if you go to court and submit your bills to the jury, Georgia law says you do not need an expert to say your medical charges were “reasonable.” Instead, you are qualified to identify your medical bills and have them admitted into evidence. It would be up to the insurance company to refute the reasonableness of the charges by having an expert testify. In most cases this is unlikely to happen.
In addition to your medical expenses, you can also claim your lost wages for missed time from work. Lost wages and medical expenses are what are known as economic damages. Economic damages are damages that are capable of a precise measure. When submitting lost wage evidence to Liberty Mutual it is important to have as much documentation as possible. This documentation can include pay-stubs, disability forms, and signed wage verifications from supervisors or the human resources department for your company. You are entitled to claim damages for missed time from work, even if you were paid while you were out. For example, if you had to use leave time or PTO days, or if you received disability payments, the at-fault driver is still responsible for paying your lost wages.
While economic damages are frequently the primary factor Liberty Mutual will consider in determining the overall value of your claim, your noneconomic damages are also important. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor. The value of a noneconomic damages claim depends on a number of factors, including the nature and severity of your injuries, the types of medical treatment you received, how long your injuries and any disability lasted, and your prior condition before the accident. In our experience Liberty Mutual is very bad at properly evaluating noneconomic damages claims. For car accident claims involving soft tissue injuries Liberty Mutual may try to offer $1,000 or less for your pain and suffering, even if you had to undergo months of physical therapy.
If your personal injury claim with Liberty Mutual is settled it will require that you sign a release that releases Liberty Mutual and its policyholder from any and all further liability. A release is always required when settling a personal injury claim. But the type of release you sign and the language that should be in the release depends on a number of factors. You should hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can advise you on all aspects of your injury case, including the type of release you should sign.
What if you have insurance with Liberty Mutual and are injured in a car accident? Does your insurance policy with Liberty Mutual have to pay for your injuries? In short, it depends. You may have a few different types of coverage that you could use to help pay your damages. One type of coverage you may have is what is known as medical payments coverage, or “med pay” for short. Med pay is basically health insurance for you if you are in an accident and can be used to help pay your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault.
Another type of insurance you may have with Liberty Mutual is uninsured motorist coverage. You may be entitled to uninsured motorist coverage the at-fault driver either had no insurance or not enough insurance. Most people are not aware which uninsured motorist coverage policies apply to their accident. Our experienced personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. can help you understand this process.
Whether you are dealing with Liberty Mutual or some other insurance company, you should talk to a qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Our experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys have the knowledge and experience to give you the help you need. Contact The Champion Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation about your car accident claim.
Car Accident Claims with GEICO
GEICO is a car insurance company that is probably best known for its television commercials with a talking gecko lizard. GEICO originally started as an insurer for federal government employees and their families, but it eventually expanded its offerings to the general public. What you may not know is that GEICO is currently the second largest auto insurer in the country behind State Farm. Given GEICO’s status as the second largest auto insurer in the country, you may find yourself dealing with GEICO if you are involved in a Georgia car accident. You may even have GEICO car insurance yourself. If you were in an accident and one of the drivers has GEICO, there are some important things you should know. Most importantly, you should know that GEICO is likely not looking out for your best interests. Instead, GEICO will do what it can to save money on your claim. The only way you will have someone on your side who is protecting your rights is if you hire a personal injury attorney.
So what should you expect if you find yourself dealing with GEICO after a car accident? Here’s some basic information to help you know what to expect.
Opening a Claim with GEICO
GEICO has an easy to use feature on its website that allows you to open a claim online. The online claims feature is open to anybody who is involved in an accident with a GEICO policyholder. You can also call GEICO’s claims phone number at 1-800-861-8380.
Whether you open the claim online or on the phone, you will be asked a series of questions about your car accident. If you do not know all the answers, do not worry. The claims representative just wants to know the information you have. After your claim is set up you will be given a claim number. This claim number will be used whenever you call to check on your claim or discuss it. You can also use the claim number to monitor the status of your claim online.
GEICO’s Investigation of Your Claim
GEICO’s investigation of your claim will start as soon as the claim is opened. One of the most important questions GEICO will want to answer is who was at fault for causing the accident. To determine liability, GEICO will get a copy of the police report to see what the responding police officer’s investigation revealed, whether any citations were issued, and whether any witnesses were interviewed. The GEICO adjuster may also interview witnesses.
After it has completed its investigation, GEICO will determine who was at fault. It may determine that two or more drivers were at fault and assign percentages of fault. If you were one of the drivers, it may determine you were at least partially to blame. Under Georgia law, an injured person can recover damages for an accident as long as he or she is less than 50% at fault. If the injured person was 50% or more to blame then the injured person cannot recover damages. This is known as comparative fault. GEICO may use its comparative fault determination to reduce what it has to pay you for your property damage or bodily injury claim.
If you are dealing with GEICO as the other driver’s insurer, please remember that you should never give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. GEICO will try to use any recorded statement you give to get you to say something it can later hold against you. However, if you are the one with GEICO, you may need to give a recorded statement because your insurance policy likely says you have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company.
Property Damage Claims with GEICO
One of the first steps after your claim is opened with GEICO will be to get your property damage taken care of. Whether your car is repairable or totaled, you will need a rental car while your regular vehicle is unavailable. Your own insurance policy, whether it was with GEICO or some other insurer, may have rental car coverage that pays for your rental care while your vehicle is being repaired. Regardless of what your coverage is, the other driver’s insurance should be responsible for paying for your rental car if he or she was responsible for causing the accident.
After GEICO assesses the damage to your vehicle it will determine whether it can be fixed or whether it needs to be totaled. Your vehicle may end up being totaled if the cost to repair it, plus the cost of paying for your rental car and your diminished value claim, is close to or more than the amount GEICO could pay just to replace it.
If your vehicle is repaired then you may be entitled to diminished value. A diminished value claim is based on the fact that your car is generally worth less if it is damaged in an accident. The amount of a diminished value claim depends on a number of factors, including the make and model of the car, its condition, the car’s mileage, and the amount of damage.
Personal Injury Claims with GEICO
A personal injury claim with GEICO should not be handled alone. You need a personal injury attorney if you are injured in a car accident, whether you are dealing with GEICO or some other insurance company. Insurance companies are not in the business of looking out for injured people’s interests and paying them full value on their claims. To the contrary, insurance companies will do everything they can to pay you less than what you are entitled to receive. GEICO is no different.
Your car accident claim with GEICO should include all of the damages you are entitled to claim. Your damages will likely include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include medical bills and lost wages, as well as any other out of pocket expenses. GEICO will be responsible for paying the full amount of your medical bills, regardless of whether they have been paid my health insurance or through some other source. GEICO, however, may try to challenge the amount of your medical expenses and argue that the amount your doctors charged is not “reasonable and customary.”
For your lost wages, you are entitled to claim your missed time from work. If you had to use sick leave, vacation days, or PTO time, or if you had disability coverage, you can still claim lost wages. The amount of your lost wage claim will be the number of hours or days missed multiplied by your wage rate.
While economic damages are normally capable of a precise measurement, non-economic damages are not. The types of damages include pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, bodily disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor. These damages are inherently subjective and depend on a number of factors. These factors include the types of injuries you sustained, the medical treatment you received, how long your injuries and pain lasted, whether you were disabled for a period of time, and your physical and mental condition before the accident.
Car insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing non-economic damages and trying to offer $1,000 or less when the claim may be worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more. So how are you supposed to know what your non-economic damages claim is worth when the insurance company is offering pennies on the dollar? The short answer is you likely won’t know because you don’t have the knowledge, training, and experience to make this determination. Only an experienced personal injury attorney can help you make this determination.
You should never settle a personal injury claim before you are done receiving medical treatment. After you are done with treatment, and have hopefully recovered from your injuries, your personal injury claim with GEICO can enter the settlement negotiations phase. This phase normally begins when the injured person sends a settlement demand to the insurance company. After the adjuster evaluates the demand he or she will either pay it or make a counteroffer.
If the settlement negotiations lead to a settlement then GEICO will require you sign a release that releases GEICO and its policyholder from any and all further liability. The language in a release is important. The type of release you sign and the language that should be in the release depends on a number of factors. This is one of the many reasons why you need a personal injury attorney representing you.
If you are dealing with GEICO as your own insurance company then it is important for you to know your GEICO policy may provide benefits for your personal injury claim. You may have uninsured motorist coverage. If you do, then this coverage can be used if the at-fault driver either has no insurance or not enough insurance to pay all of your damages. Your GEICO policy may also have medical payments coverage, which can be used to help pay your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault.
If you find yourself dealing with GEICO or some other car insurance company after an accident, you need a personal injury attorney on your side who can advocate for you. Contact The Champion Firm, P.C. for a free consultation about your accident case.
Allstate Claims and Settlements Process
You’ve been in a car accident and after the initial shock wears off, you’re left to pick up the pieces. While you’re trying to recover—all of a sudden—medical bills, missed time from work, and car repairs start consuming your thoughts. How will they be taken care of? Does the other driver have enough insurance? Do you have the right insurance to help cover you if the other driver doesn’t? When you or the person who hit you have auto insurance with Allstate, you want to make sure that when filing a claim and going through the process, you really are “in good hands.” After your accident and when you’re ready to file a claim, you are given multiple options by Allstate to start the claims process. You have the option to call their 1-800-ALLSTATE number, use the Allstate Mobile app, or to contact your agent directly.
Once this process has begun, you will receive a claim number that you will use to track your claim throughout the entire process.
Opening A Claim With Allstate
Once you’ve initially filed the claim, Allstate may contact you to get details about the accident. If Allstate is your insurer, it will likely contact the other driver’s insurance company to compare details of the crash. This helps Allstate and the other insurance provider determine who was at-fault for the accident while taking each driver’s account into consideration.
Georgia uses the modified comparative fault rule when determining fault in automobile accidents. For example, if someone turns in front of you, causing you to slam on your brakes but still inevitably hit them, Allstate may determine that it’s 90 percent the other driver’s fault, but since you were speeding 10 miles over the speed limit, you are 10 percent at fault. The way that this factors into insurance claims is important to understand. Based on the percentage of fault, if any, the insurance company will deduct that ten percent from your determined settlement. However, you may not be able to recover damages if you are 50% or more at fault.
Now that you know the processes, you can understand how Allstate will assess fault based on your experience and the result of their investigation.
Allstate's Investigation Of Your Claim
The next step is the inspection of the car and assessing personal injury. This involves calculating the damages caused by the car accident and what repairs are needed to fix them. In this stage, there are general damages and special damages. General damages are specified as noneconomic damages like pain and suffering. Special damages are economic losses like property damage, wage loss, and medical expenses. Like many other insurance companies, Allstate uses a computer program to evaluate the amount of damages it owes. Allstate’s computer program, known as the Colossus Program, is well known in the industry and is a frequent source of criticism. The software analyzes your property damage, medical records and bills, and lost wages to determine what was caused by the car accident and to make a settlement valuation.
The most important takeaway from the Colossus software is that makes generalized estimations, based not on your personal experience or your unique situation, but instead based on generally applicable guidelines. It easily leads to under estimation of the appropriate settlement amount and therefore may leave you feeling like you were wronged by the insurance company’s settlement offer.
While we hope insurance companies attempt due diligence in your claim, that doesn’t mean you are being awarded what you rightfully deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury from a car accident, you have the right to contact an attorney who can go over your case and determine the proper settlement value. You need to focus on your own recovery and let us take care of the rest. The Champion Firm, P.C. can help you. Give us a call today and let’s get started on getting you the right settlement for your personal injury case.
How to Get a Police Report in Atlanta After a Car Accident
An important step following any Atlanta car accident is getting a copy of the accident report. The Georgia Uniform Motor Vehicle Accident Report contains important information about the crash that can be used to help in the claims process. One of the most important pieces of information contained in the accident report is the insurance information for the drivers. Notifying and opening claims with the proper insurance companies is an important step in the claims process. Georgia accident reports also contain information regarding the responding police officer’s investigation into the accident, including any witness statements and the officer’s assessment of who was at fault. This information can be helpful in proving who was at fault for causing the accident.
Of course, if you hire a Georgia personal injury attorney following your car accident, he or she can get a copy of the accident report for you and open claims with the appropriate insurance companies. However, some people like to get copies of the accident reports prior to consulting with an attorney, and others want to try to handle their claim on their own (which is generally not a good idea).
If you are going to try to get a copy of your accident report, there are two primary ways to get it.
Online at Buycrash.com
Buycrash.com is a website that has accident reports available for download from a variety of states. The first step in getting an accident report on this site is to select Georgia from the list of states in the drop down menu on the home page. Once you select Georgia, you will be taken to a page where you will enter the information needed to retrieve the report. You can get the accident report by either entering the VIN for one of the vehicles involved in the crash, or you can enter (1) the last name of a party involved or report number, (2) the date of the accident, and (3) the reporting agency.
After you enter the identifying information for the accident, you will be allowed to download the accident report if it is available. The cost for this service is generally $11. If the accident report is not available yet, you can enter your contact information and you will be emailed when the report becomes available.
Getting the Report from the Police Department
You can also get a copy of the accident report directly from the police department that responded to the accident scene and prepared the report. The responding police officer will often times give you a card with the accident report number and instructions on how to get a copy of the report. It can take several days for a report to be completed and available. Getting an accident report from a police department can cost a small fee, but the cost is normally less than $10.
If you have been involved in a car accident in the Atlanta area, here are some instructions on how to get copies of accident reports directly from some of the city and county police departments in the metro area.
- Atlanta - The Atlanta Police Department has instructions on its website on how to get a car accident report. The website instructs visitors to either get a copy from www.buycrash.com, or by calling the Atlanta Police Department’s Central Records Unit for a copy of the report. The number for the Records Unit is 404-546-7461. According to the Atlanta Police Department, it can take up to five business days for a report to become available.
- Acworth - Acworth car accident reports can be obtained from the Acworth Police Department Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. When making the request, you will need to go to the Records Department. The Police Department is located at 4440 Acworth Industrial Drive, Acworth, Georgia 30101.
- Alpharetta - Alpharetta car accident reports can be obtained by contacting the Alpharetta Police Department’s Records Support Service at 678-297-6306. The cost for an Alpharetta accident report is $5.00.
- Dunwoody - Following a Dunwoody car accident you can get a copy of your accident report from the Dunwoody Police Department. According to the Department’s website, you can pickup a copy of the report directly from the Police Department any time of the day on any day of the week. The address for the Dunwoody Police Department is 41 Perimeter Center East, Suite 100, Dunwoody, Georgia 30346. The cost of a Dunwoody accident report is a $5.00 flat fee (cash only) and $0.10 per page (also cash only).
- Cumming - The address for the Cumming Police Department is 301 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Cumming, Georgia 30040. Call the Cumming Police Department at 770-781-2000 to inquire about getting a copy of your Cumming car accident report.
- Douglasville - A copy of a Douglasville car accident report can be picked up from the Douglasville Police Department’s Records Division for a minimal fee. The Records Division is located in the Douglasville Public Safety and Municipal Court Complex at 2083 Fairburn Road. The Records Division is open from 8 AM to 4:30 PM. The phone number for the Records Division is 770-920-3010 ext 8501.
- Peachtree City - Peachtree City’s website lists a couple of options for getting a copy of a Peachtree City car accident report. One option is to show up in person at the Peachtree City Police Department at 350 Hwy 74 South, Peachtree City, Georgia 30269. You can also email a request to [email protected] with a copy of your photo ID, and the report will be sent to you via email. If you want to fax a request, you can send it to 770-631-2512 with a copy of your photo ID. Last, you can mail a request with a self-addressed stamped envelope to 350 Hwy 74 South, Peachtree City, GA 30269.
- Decatur - Decatur car accident reports can be obtained from the Decatur Police Department by completing this form and mailing it to Deputy Chief Keith Lee, 420 W. Trinity Place, Decatur, Georgia 30030. The cost for a Decatur car accident report is $5.00.
- Marietta - The Marietta Police Department makes Marietta accident reports available by in person request or by mail. If you are mailing your request, send it to the Marietta Police Department-Records, 240 Lemon Street, Marietta, Georgia 30060. If picking your request up in person, you can go to the Records Division between the hours of 8 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday.
- Smyrna - You get a copy of your Smyrna car accident report from the Smyrna Police Department’s Records and Identification Section, which is located at 2646 Atlanta Road, Smyrna, Georgia 30080. The Records and Identification Section is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:45 PM.
- Kennesaw - The Kennesaw Police Department’s Records Unit has accident reports available for pick up. The Records Unit is located at 2529 J O Stephenson Avenue, Kennesaw, Georgia 30144 and is open Monday to Friday from 7 AM to 6 PM. The Records Unit can be contacted by phone at 770-429-4532.
- Lawrenceville - If you are involved in a Lawrenceville car accident, the Lawrenceville Police Department will allow you to pick up a copy of your report from the Records Unit free of charge. The Records Unit is located at 300 Jackson Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046 and is open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. If you were not involved in the accident then the Department will charge you $5.00 for the report.
- Norcross - A Norcross accident report can be picked up from the Norcross Police Department in person at 65 Lawrenceville Street, Norcross, Georgia 30071, or by email sent to [email protected] It normally takes 3-5 business days following an accident for the Norcross Police Department to have a copy of the report available for pick up.
- Woodstock - The Woodstock Police Department’s Records Division makes accident reports available for pick up Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. The Police Department is located at 12453 Highway 92, Woodstock, Georgia 30188. According to the Police Department, it normally takes five business days following the accident for the report to be available. The Department recommends that you call them at 770-592-6030 to make sure your report is available before going to pick it up.
- Cobb County - The Cobb County Police Department makes accident reports available for download on its website. You can also contact the Central Records Department at (770) 499-3915. If you need a report from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, call (770) 499-4728.
- Cherokee County - The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office should be contacted at (678) 493-4141 if you have questions about your Cherokee County accident report. The Sheriff’s Office is open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM.
- DeKalb County - If the DeKalb County Police Department investigated your accident, you can pick up a copy of the report from the Department’s Central Records Unit. Central Records is located at 1960 W. Exchange Place, 2nd Floor Room 210, Tucker, Georgia 30084. The phone number is (770) 724-7740. Central Records is open Monday-Thursday from 9 AM to 5 PM. An accident report costs $5.00 and is usually available five days after the accident.
- Douglas County - If your car accident occurred in Douglas County and the Sheriff’s Office investigated the accident, you can request a copy of your accident report from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office is located at 8470 Earl D. Lee Boulevard, Douglasville, Georgia 30134. You can call the Sheriff’s Office at (770) 942-2121.
- Fayette County - The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office allows accident reports to be obtained in person, or by fax, mail, or email. Accident reports are normally available 3-5 business days following the accident, and there is no charge if the individual involved in the accident is obtaining a copy of the report. The Sheriff’s Office is located at 155 Johnson Avenue, Fayetteville, Georgia 30214, and the phone number is (770) 461-6353.
- Fulton County - Fulton County makes car accident reports available for pick up at two police precincts. One is the Old National Precinct located at 5615 Old National Hwy, College Park, Georgia 30349. The number for the Old National Precinct is 404-613-3005. You can also pick up the report from 141 Pryor Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The number for this location is 404-613-5700. The hours of operation for both locations is Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.
- Forsyth County - The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office charges $5.00 for each accident report, which can be paid with cash or check. Forsyth County car accident reports can be picked up at the Forsyth County Jail, 202 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Cumming, Georgia 30040. You can contact the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at (770) 781-3060.
- Gwinnett County - If you need an accident report from the Gwinnett County Police Department, you can call (770) 513-5000 to check the status of your report. Accident reports are generally available four business days after the report was made. You can obtain a copy of the accident report in person from the Gwinnett Police Department at 770 Hi Hope Road, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30044. Reports are available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 AM to 5 PM and Tuesday sand Thursdays from 8 AM to 6:30 PM. Accident reports cost $5. If you want to request a copy by mail, the Police Department advises that you call first to check the status of the report. A request sent by mail should include your name, the case number, and payment for the accident report by cashier’s check made payable to Gwinnett County Police. A self-addressed, stamped envelope should be included with the request, which you will need to mail to Gwinnett County Police Department, Attn: Records, P.O. Box 602, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30046.
- Paulding County - The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office provides four different ways to get a copy of a Paulding County car accident report. First, you can email a request to [email protected]. Second, you can mail the request to Paulding County Sheriff’s Office, 247 Industrial Way North, Dallas, Georgia 30132. Third, you can fax the request to (770) 505-5524. Fourth, you can request the report in person. If you have any questions about your Paulding County car accident report, call the Records Clerk in the Sheriff’s Office at (770) 443-3010.
Georgia State Patrol
If the Georgia State Patrol investigated your accident, you can request a copy of your accident report from the local State Patrol Post that responded to the accident, or from the Department of Public Safety’s Open Records Unit. Georgia State Patrol accident reports can be obtained by mailing a request to Georgia Department of Public Safety, Attn: Open Records Unit, P.O. Box 1456, Atlanta, Georgia 30371. You can also fax your request to (404) 624-7529. When submitting your request, include your full name, mailing address, telephone number, names of individuals involved in the accident, the records being requested, the Georgia county or city where the accident occurred, the date of the investigation or accident, and the crash report number if you know it.
If you were involved in a car accident in the Atlanta area, getting a copy of the accident report is just one step in the process. You should always consult with an experienced personal injury attorney following a car accident. If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.
Why didn’t my airbag go off in my car accident?
As personal injury attorneys, we regularly help Georgia drivers who have been in serious automobile accidents. One question we hear time and again is: “why didn’t my airbag go off during my accident?” People lucky enough to walk away from a mangled car often wonder why their airbags didn’t inflate and if their injuries would have been less severe had the airbags deployed. In order to answer this question, we need a general understanding of the three components that make up the airbag system in every vehicle. The first part of this safety feature is the actual airbag itself, which is not really a bag at all, but rather a nylon balloon capable of inflating in an instant. Secondly, there is the inflation system that fills the bag with some type of chemical stew and blows it up to certain specifications. Finally, there are computer sensors throughout the automobile that are capable of analyzing complex data points at the beginning of a motor vehicle collision and then talking to the inflation system. These sensors are highly sensitive and have a miniscule window of opportunity to call the airbags to action. The sensors make the decision to deploy the airbags in about the amount of time it takes a human to blink.
GM airbag engineering specialist Ken Zawisa explains that the sensors are controlled by a sophisticated deployment algorithm: “The deployment-control algorithm in the sensing and diagnostic module (SDM) is initialized when an internal accelerometer senses a possible collision. After the algorithm is initialized, the microprocessor compares measured vehicle deceleration and other calculated values with calibration parameters stored in the SDM that were developed from many deployment and non-deployment crash events. To decide if bag deployment is warranted, the SDM considers signals from multiple accelerometers and door-pressure sensors. If the algorithm commands an airbag deployment and the arming function in the SDM concurs, electrical power is provided to the airbags to begin deployment.” All that generally happens within 8 to 40 milliseconds of the initial impact.
There are three main reasons that an airbag doesn’t go off in a car or truck accident:
- The impact of the collision your were in was not violent enough to trigger the sensors to action. Rapid deceleration and increased force and pressure against parts of the vehicle are key components in the sensors’ determination that airbags are necessary.
- The position of the sensors in your vehicle are in contrast to the location of the impact to your vehicle. Most sensors are in the front and side of an automobile and even a substantial hit to the rear of the vehicle will not cause the sensors to make the bags inflate. We frequently represent clients in serious rear-end car accidents where the airbags did not deploy, and the reason is that they are not designed to go off in an accident like that.
- One or more parts of your airbag system are defective. Newer model vehicles have a dashboard light that should illuminate if an airbag problem is sensed. If this happens, makes sure you take your car to a professional. Diagnosing and fixing an airbag issue is a complex undertaking and not something that should be attempted by the average home weekend auto mechanic.
The airbags in our vehicles today are safer and more effective than the original systems that manufacturers began to put into vehicles in the 1980s and 1990s. Some current airbag systems can even protect people inside an automobile involved in a rollover accident.
Even with these advances it is important to remember that the seatbelt remains the first line of defense when a motor vehicle accident occurs. Airbags are not a safety substitute, but rather a safety supplement to making sure everyone in your automobile is belted in.
So, if you have a car accident and your airbags don’t deploy, that doesn’t necessarily mean your car was defective. Even if your airbag failed to deploy due to a defect, this also doesn’t mean that you automatically have a product liability claim against the car manufacturer. If the failure of the airbag did not cause you any injury, then there is nothing to sue the car manufacturer for because in any Georgia product liability case you must be able to show that a defect in the product caused you to suffer injuries and damages. On top of that, product liability claims are very expensive to pursue, especially against car manufacturers. This means that even minor injuries resulting from an airbag failure may not be worth pursuing because it may cost more money to prove the case in paying for experts and court costs than you would actually get from a product liability case.
If you have questions about your Georgia car accident, including questions about why your airbags did not go off, contact the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.
For more frequently asked questions about motor vehicle accidents, click here.