Common Questions About Atlanta Personal Injury Lawsuits
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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.
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.
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@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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@example.com. 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.
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 for a professional car accident attorney, 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.
If you have an unresponsive lawyer, The Champion Firm is here to offer some simple steps to follow:
Try speaking with someone else in the office. If the lawyer doesn’t return voicemails or respond to messages, try speaking with somebody else at the firm. You could try speaking with their paralegal or even another lawyer that works there. If you do speak with someone else, let them know what is going on and why you need to speak with the lawyer. Also, ask them why the lawyer has not been responding to you.
Track everything. Keep track of each time you have called and the name of every person you have spoken with.
Send an e-mail. If phone calls don’t work, try emailing the lawyer. This may lead to a response. Even if the lawyer doesn’t respond, you have an electronic record showing that the lawyer has been ignoring you.
Send a certified letter. Send a letter to the lawyer via certified mail with a return receipt requested. In the letter, explain all of your efforts to contact the lawyer and explain that you will be terminating the lawyer if they do not respond.
Contact the State Bar. The Georgia Bar’s consumer assistance program can help. According to the State Bar’s website, they will generally first ask that you send a certified letter to the lawyer. If this doesn’t work, then the State Bar may contact the lawyer on your behalf.
Fire the lawyer. If the lawyer isn’t being responsive, he or she is either intentionally ignoring you or is too busy to work on your case. Whatever the reason, you should not want somebody handling your case who isn’t giving it the attention it deserves. Send the lawyer a certified letter terminating the representation and asking for a complete copy of your file. The lawyer is required to give you a copy of your file. If you don’t get a copy of it in a timely manner, contact the State Bar. Click here to see how to fire your Personal Injury Attorney.
Hire an Attorney at The Champion Firm: At The Champion Firm, you will never have to worry whether or not your case is being attended to. We promise to keep you in the loop, up to date, and cared for throughout your case. We understand how stressful going through a personal injury can be, and we are here to help you through this difficult time. Most importantly, we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
If you are involved in a Georgia car accident, it is important that you understand what uninsured motorist coverage is and the benefits it may provide for your accident. Uninsured motorist insurance is frequently referred to as UM coverage. In Georgia, this type of insurance can be used if there is no liability insurance, or if the available liability coverage is not sufficient to pay all of your damages. In other words, if the person who caused the car accident has no insurance, UM coverage may be available to pay your damages. In addition, if the person who caused the accident has insurance, but it is not enough to pay all of your damages, then you may be entitled to UM coverage to pay for any damages that exceed the available liability insurance.
Sources of Uninsured Motorist Coverage
There are several potential sources of UM coverage: (1) your own insurance policy; (2) the insurance policy for the vehicle you were in at the time of the wreck if you were in somebody else’s car; and (3) any insurance policies issued to any relatives who reside in your household. Identifying every potential source of UM coverage is important because you can stack multiple UM policies—that is, you can add up all the available UM policies and use them if necessary.
It is important to remember that UM coverage applies even if you were not in a car at the time of the accident—for example, if you were hit by a car while a pedestrian. This is because UM coverage applies if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, which, again, is one with no insurance or not enough insurance to cover all your damages.
Uninsured motorist insurance is not required in Georgia, but it must be offered. The default rule is that the insured’s policy affords UM coverage equal to the limits of liability coverage. However, an insured can select lower limits, or it can reject UM coverage altogether.
Types of Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Georgia
There are two types of UM coverage: (1) add-on (aka excess); and (2) difference-in-limits (aka reduced limits or traditional UM). As its name implies, add-on coverage is added on to whatever limits of liability coverage the at-fault driver has available. So, for example, if the negligent driver has $25,000 in available liability insurance, and you have $100,000 in add-on UM coverage, then you will have a total of $125,000 in available insurance for your case. Difference-in-limits coverage, on the other hand, is reduced by the amount of available liability coverage. In the previous example, you would only have $75,000 in UM coverage available ($100,000 minus the $25,000 liability coverage) for a total of $100,000 in available insurance.
Notifying Uninsured Motorist Carriers
It is important that you identify and notify all potential insurance carriers as soon as possible after an accident because insurance policies require that the policyholders report accidents to the insurance company in a timely manner. This is particularly true for insurers that provide UM coverage. Many people are not familiar with the various sources of UM coverage, so they frequently neglect to notify all the potential UM insurers. For example, most people don’t know that they can use their own UM policy, even if they were not in their own car at the time of the accident. Furthermore, most people do not know that they can use a resident relative’s UM policy.
Medical payments coverage, or “med pay” as it commonly referred to, can provide very important financial benefits if you or your loved ones are injured a car accident. Med pay can be used to help pay the medical bills for you and anyone else who is in your car at the time of an accident. It is important to remember that med pay applies even if you were not at fault. If you already have health insurance to pay your medical bills, you can even use med pay to cover your co-pays and deductibles to reduce or eliminate your out-of-pocket medical expenses. In addition, med pay may even apply if you were not in a car at the time of the accident–for example, if you were on a bicycle or you were a pedestrian when you were hit by a car. If you don’t know whether you have med pay, read your auto policy and make sure you have it. If you don’t know how much med pay you should have, talk to your insurance agent to find out the level that is right for you.
Many people are unaware of the various sources of insurance coverage that may apply in a Georgia pedestrian accident. Because of the serious injuries that can result from this type of accident, it is important to identify all the coverages that may apply. Here are the three most common sources of insurance for a Georgia pedestrian accident.
Liability Coverage: There should be a liability policy for the car the at-fault driver was operating at the time of the accident. If the driver is a non-owner of that vehicle, then there may be additional coverage that applies to the driver. For example, the driver may have their own insurance policy that covers them while driving the car they were in at the time of the collision. It is also important to determine whether the driver was working at the time because employers are liable for any negligent acts that their employees commit in the course and scope of their employment.
Uninsured motorist (“UM”) Coverage: If the driver that caused the accident has no insurance or not enough insurance to pay all of the pedestrian’s damages, then the pedestrian may be entitled to UM coverage. Virtually all insurance policies require that you provide the insurer with notice of the accident as soon as possible. If you fail to provide timely notice, then the insurer can deny coverage. This is why it is important to notify all companies that may provide UM coverage as soon as possible after an accident. In addition to the pedestrian’s own car insurance policy, there may be additional UM policies that apply as well. For example, accident victims can also seek coverage under UM coverage belonging to any resident relatives.
Medical Payments Coverage: Med pay, as it commonly referred to, is a type of insurance coverage on your auto insurance policy that can be used to pay medical bills for you and anyone in your car at the time of an accident. It may also apply even if you are not in a vehicle at the time of the accident. If med pay does apply, then it can be a valuable source of medical benefits, especially if there is a limited amount of other insurance available or if the injured person does not have health insurance.
Collisions between cars and pedestrians can have serious, and potentially deadly, consequences. Identifying all of the source of insurance that may apply is an important first step in the case and requires the assistance of an experienced auto injury attorney.
A common question we get from people who have been injured in a Georgia car accident is whether they should submit their medical bills to health insurance. The answer to this question is almost always yes. Submitting your medical bills to health insurance will reduce your out of pocket expenses, but it does not reduce the amount of medical bills that the at-fault driver is responsible for. Under Georgia law, somebody who negligently injures you is responsible for paying the full amount of your medical bills, regardless of whether they have been paid in whole or in part by your health insurance. Depending on the type of health plan you have, you may be responsible for reimbursing your health plan for what it has paid once you receive a settlement. However, even if you have a health plan that must be paid back, you will still come out better as the amount your health insurance pays will almost always be less than the full amount of the bills.
You should also check to see if you have medical payments coverage (“med pay”) under your own car insurance policy or the policy for the vehicle you are in. Med pay is basically health insurance for you if you are in a car accident and can be used to pay your medical bills regardless of who is at fault. Similar to health insurance, using med pay does not reduce the amount of medical bills that the negligent driver is responsible for paying. Sometimes med pay can be used to pay your co-pays and deductibles after your health insurance has paid its portion. Whether med pay should be used in lieu of, or in combination with, health insurance requires an analysis of the specific facts in your case.
A frequent question I hear is whether someone should hire an attorney if they have been involved in a car accident. Many people do not realize the intricacies involved in the claim process, and they believe the insurance company when it acts like their friend and says it will “take care of everything”. This leads some people to avoid hiring an attorney altogether, or if they do decide to hire one later, sometimes the damage has already been done.
If you decide to go it alone, there is a high likelihood that you are going to make some mistake that will cause you to lose out on valuable compensation. The bottom-line is the insurance company does not have your bests interests at heart. Its goal is to pay you as little money as possible. Before making the potentially costly decision to represent yourself, you should at least consult with a personal injury attorney. Most injury attorneys offer free, no obligation consultations. A brief consultation can provide you with some basic information about the process and help you make the decision on whether to hire a lawyer.
As to whether you should go the next step and hire an attorney after your free consultation, I strongly believe that anyone who has been injured in a car accident should hire one. An attorney will likely be able to get you considerably more money than you could get on your own, and an attorney will be able to navigate the claims process, notify the proper insurance companies, analyze the complicated issue of whether any health insurance or other benefits providers are entitled to be paid back, and negotiate any unpaid medical bills. At the end of the day, you will almost always end up with a better result if you hire an attorney than if you try to handle it yourself.