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.
It’s frightening to think that an insurer would send someone to follow you in order to deny your claim. While some insurance companies will hire private investigators to watch a victim after an accident, it does not happen very often. However, there are other ways an insurance company can gather evidence against injury victims that can be just as damaging as video surveillance.
When Do Insurance Companies Use Private Investigators?
It doesn’t make sense for an insurer to hire a private investigator for every claim. After all, hiring an investigator is expensive, and it will only be worth it if the investigator finds something that will save the insurance company a significant amount of money. If your injuries are relatively minor or you are likely to heal without long-term complications, it makes more sense for an insurer to pay your claim than to spend money refuting it.
On the other hand, insurance companies may hire a private investigator to conduct video surveillance when:
They think the victim is not being truthful. If an insurance company has reason to suspect that a person is exaggerating his or her injuries, they may hire an investigator to follow the victims during their daily activities. A person claiming to have severe back injuries becomes less credible if there is a video of him lifting a bag of groceries or stooping to pick up a child when he is supposed to be recovering.
The claim is for a significant amount. It may be cheaper for the insurer to fight a claim rather than pay out for permanent injuries or extensive losses. An investigator’s video or photos of a victim doing even minor tasks (such as walking a dog or driving a car) could devalue a case if the victim claimed to be completely disabled by the injury.
The effects of the injury are difficult to verify. Some injuries are fairly straightforward from diagnosis to recovery. For example, doctors and insurers can see a broken arm on an x-ray, know that casting the arm is usually effective, and can estimate the costs of treatment fairly accurately. However, some injuries can be more difficult to predict, and are not as easy to prove with medical evidence. Back injuries, head injuries, and neck injuries are all known to cause symptoms that vary from patient to patient.
The case is going to trial. If the insurer and the victim cannot agree on a settlement amount, the case may go into litigation. In these cases, the insurer will need all the evidence it can get, so it is often worth the cost to hire an investigator.
Don’t Give an Insurer a Reason to Deny Your Injury Claim
If you are honest about the extent of your injuries, you will probably not have to worry about an investigator following you to gather evidence. With that said, there are other actions you can take that will give an insurer some ground to reduce the value of your claim. To give your claim the best chance of success, make sure that you:
Stay off of social media. Insurers do not need to hire a private eye to get evidence against you: they only need to check your social media sites. Posting on social media after an injury is more likely to hurt than help your case, so it is best to avoid posting on your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Yelp accounts until your claim is settled.
Follow your doctor’s advice. If you follow all of your doctor’s treatment and rehabilitation orders, you will not have to worry about what information the insurer has gathered about you. Limiting your activities and staying within the restrictions set by your doctor at all times allows you to avoid explaining to an insurer that you felt good enough to go fishing one day, but spent the next week recovering from pushing yourself too hard.
Inform your attorney of any suspicious activity. Most investigators are able to observe victims without arousing suspicion. However, if you think you are being watched, do not engage with the investigator or exaggerate your injuries. Go about your business and act normal, and report the incident to your attorney.
At The Champion Firm, P.C., our personal injury attorneys are well aware of the strategies insurance companies use to deny, underpay, and delay claims. If you are suffering due to an injury caused by someone else’s negligence, fill out the contact form on this page today so we can advise you on how to get the best possible result. Our Georgia injury attorneys work on a contingency-fee basis, so you will not owe us anything if you don’t recover compensation as a victim after an accident, it does not happen very often. However, there are other ways an insurance company can gather evidence against injury victims that can be just as damaging as video surveillance.
After car accident in Georgia, the last thing you want to hear is that the other driver’s insurance won’t cover your costs — or, worse yet, that they are not insured at all. Because it is illegal to operate a vehicle without auto insurance in Georgia, most people assume that — in the event of an accident — their expenses should be paid for. Unfortunately, you may be surprised at just how many people drive without insurance or adequate insurance, throughout the United States and in Georgia.
According to data from recent years, about 13% of drivers in the United States are uninsured. That might not sound like much at first, but let’s put it in perspective. Statistically, one in eight drivers is uninsured. That means, for every eight drivers you pass on the road, at least one of them is likely driving without auto insurance. With numbers like that, the idea of getting in an auto accident in Georgia is even more frightening.
After a car accident, most people assume that the at-fault driver’s insurance company should take care of all expenses. In a perfect world, that would absolutely happen, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Not only are there numerous uninsured motorists driving around, but you might also find that the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay for all of your damages.
Let’s say, for example, that your total damages—medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering—add up to $100,000, but the at-fault driver’s policy only had $25,000 available for bodily injury damages. In this case, you could get $25,000 from the negligent driver’s insurance company, but the insurance company would not have to pay the rest of your damages. So what can you do?
Fortunately, there are actually multiple avenues available to victims of car wrecks in Georgia. The other driver’s liability insurance is not the only option. Depending on your coverage and the circumstances of the crash, you might be able to get payment from:
There are two types of UM coverage: add-on and difference-in-limits. As its name implies, add-on coverage is added on to whatever limits of liability coverage the at-fault driver has available. So, as an example, let’s say that the at-fault driver has $25,000 in available liability coverage, and you have $100,000 in add-on UM coverage. Together, you will have a total of $125,000 in available insurance for your case.
Conversely, difference-in-limits coverage is reduced by the amount of available liability coverage. Thus, if you have $100,000 in difference-in-limits coverage and the at-fault driver has $25,000 in liability coverage, you would have an additional $100,000 total to cover your damages — $25,000 from the at-fault driver and $75,000 from your own insurance company.
Even if you do not carry UM coverage for your own vehicle, you may still have access to it through another source. For example, if you were driving someone else’s car, their UM coverage will apply to the accident. Likewise, and this is something many people don’t know, if you have a relative residing with you who has UM coverage, you may be able to use their policy as well.
Using Med Pay After a Car Accident in Georgia
Medical payments coverage, commonly referred to as “med pay” for short, is a type of insurance you may have on your own insurance policy to pay your medical bills. Any time you are in an accident while riding in someone else’s car, it is also important to find out if that car’s policy has med pay.
What is med pay? In short, medical payments coverage is essentially health insurance for people who are in a car accident in the car that is covered by the insurance policy. Med pay provides coverage to the vehicle’s occupants regardless of who is at fault. Med pay can be a valuable source of insurance to pay your medical bills. If your auto insurance policy includes med pay, you can use it as the primary source of payment for your medical costs — up to its limit. You may also use it in combination with your health insurance policy to cover your co-pays and deductibles.
Applying Health Insurance to Medical Bills After an Auto Accident in Georgia
With or without med pay, you should always use your health insurance plan as much as possible after an auto accident. It is not uncommon for hospitals, and some other medical providers, to refuse to bill health insurance companies. Instead, they may attempt to collect the full amount for your bills directly from your car accident settlement. You can avoid this hassle by ensuring that all of your medical providers have your health insurance information.
On this topic, we should address an issue around health insurance and car accidents. After an accident, some health insurance companies will try to claim that they are not responsible for your medical bills, especially if you are getting compensation through another payment source. However, this is not true. If you have health insurance, your insurance policy is there for you when you need it, to help pay for your medical costs. Always use your health insurance as much as possible when paying for medical needs after a car accident, especially if the other driver is uninsured or under-insured.
Using Your Collision Coverage to Repair Your Vehicle
An accident with an uninsured driver can not only leave you with questions about how to get your injuries covered, but it may also raise concerns about how you will get your car fixed. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, that coverage can be used as it will include property damages coverage. Additionally, your own policy’s collision coverage can be used to pay for the damage to your vehicle after a wreck, regardless of fault. If your policy includes collision coverage, you can use it to pay for your property damage claim after the accident. In this case, you will likely have to pay for some of the damage to your vehicle, as you’ll need to meet your insurance policy’s deductible before your collision coverage pays for the rest.
If you have uninsured motorist coverage and collision coverage, you can use either one to pay the property damages resulting from an uninsured driver. The decision on which coverage to use may be dictated by which has the lowest deductible. For example, if your uninsured motorist coverage has a $1,000 deductible but the deductible on your collision coverage is only $500, you should probably use your collision coverage as your out of pocket costs will be less on the deductible.
If you were hit by an under-insured driver, your insurance company will seek reimbursement for your claim from the other driver’s insurance company. This process is called subrogation, and if the other driver’s insurance company pays that reimbursement, your insurance company should then reimburse you for your deductible. If your insurance company cannot get payment, you will at least not be responsible for any costs over and above your deductible.
Contact the Champion Firm for Help Now
At The Champion Firm, we love finding solutions like these for our clients. From sourcing all possible payments to proving fault and everything in between, we pride ourselves on finding solutions and getting the best results possible for our clients. If you’ve been hurt or lost someone you love due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you could be owed significant compensation. Consultations are always free, and you can reach us online or at 404-594-5045.
A common misperception is that all doctors in Georgia have malpractice insurance. This leads many people to think that, if a doctor makes a mistake and injures them, there will be a source of insurance to recover damages. Unfortunately, Georgia law does not require that doctors carry malpractice insurance. There is also not a federal requirement that doctors have insurance.
Some states do require that doctors carry malpractice insurance. Those states are Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. As of 2017, these states required that doctors carry a minimum amount of professional liability insurance.
Although Georgia requires that people driving on the highway have a minimum level of liability insurance, doctors are not required to carry any insurance at all. This means that the person driving next to you on I-285 in Atlanta is required to have insurance, but a doctor who operates on your brain does not need medical malpractice insurance.
It is important to point out doctors are not the only professionals that are not required to carry insurance in Georgia. Attorneys, for example, are not required to carry malpractice insurance either.
Before undergoing a medical procedure or seeking treatment with a Georgia doctor, you may want to ask whether your doctor carries malpractice insurance. Georgia law gives patients “the right to inquire as to whether the physician carries medical malpractice insurance.” See O.C.G.A. § 43-34A-5. If this information is requested by the patient, “the physician or other authorized personnel shall give such information freely and without reservation or evasion.” O.C.G.A. § 43-34A-5.
What If A Doctor Who Does Not Have Insurance Commits Malpractice?
Sometimes the person or company who negligently causes an injury does not have any insurance at all, or if they do have insurance, it is not enough to cover the injured person’s damages. This can happen in a variety of situations, including cases involving medical malpractice.
A doctor may not have malpractice insurance for a particular claim for a number of reasons. For one, the doctor may have chosen not to purchase insurance. This is called “going bare.” On the other hand, a doctor may have purchased insurance but the insurance may not apply to a particular type of claim due to an exclusion. Common medical malpractice exclusions include intentional acts and sexual misconduct.
If a doctor does not have insurance can you still bring a malpractice claim? Yes, you can. However, it can be difficult to collect money for your damages. Dealing with an uninsured negligent defendant in any type of case can present challenges. It is often easier to get claims settled when there is an insurance company involved. It is also easier to know how much money is available to cover a claim when insurance is involved because the amount of insurance is usually known. If a judgment is obtained against a negligent doctor, it can be difficult to collect the damages if there is no insurance.
When a doctor does not have any insurance, it may be more difficult to find an attorney for your case. Medical malpractice claims are very difficult, expensive, and risky. Without some level of certainty that there will be a source of money to pay for the malpractice victim’s damages, many lawyers may choose not to pursue the claim.
A common misperception is that doctors are all wealthy and have a lot of money sitting around to pay for damages. This is not necessarily true. If a doctor has chosen not to buy insurance, this may be an indication that they do not have a lot of resources and may not be very good doctors. In our experience, we have found that the vast majority of good doctors do carry insurance. Also, even doctors who earn a lot of money may not have a lot of money or assets that can be used to pay a malpractice judgment.
A Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
If you have been injured by a negligent doctor, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. There are strict time limits that govern the filing of medical malpractice claims. It is also important to start working with a medical malpractice attorney who can start building your case to ensure it is successful. The medical malpractice attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C., have experience representing injured patients in a variety of medical malpractice cases.
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.)
Assume anything you post could end up as evidence in court. Social media posts can be used against you in ways you may not even imagine. For example, a photo of you out with friends may seem innocent, but the insurance company will likely use it against you to say you clearly cannot be in that much pain if you are able to enjoy a night out with friends. If you have any concerns, just cease your social media activity until your case is over. If you do continue to be active though, just be very careful and think before you click the post button.
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.
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 its 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. These 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 its 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.
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.
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 in Georgia
If you are involved in a Georgia car accident with another driver who has USAA car insurance, or if you 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 in Georgia
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. The Champion firm serves clients in Smyrna, Atlanta and surrounding areas.
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.
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.
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 car 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 the 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.