Car accidents frequently happen, despite the fact that today’s vehicles are equipped with a wide range of safety features, like collision warning technology, emergency brake assist, and adaptive cruise control. While you may walk away from a minor fender-bender without a scratch and little to no damage to your vehicle, more serious accidents can cause extensive property damage and serious injuries.
The costs associated with a serious car accident can accumulate very quickly, particularly if your injuries require ongoing medical care. You may be eligible for financial compensation for the costs associated with the accident by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the motorist who caused the accident. However, Georgia has a strict statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits, which means that you must take legal action within the specified period of time or your claim will be denied.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years from the date of the accident. However, it is highly recommended that you initiate the claims process as soon as possible for a number of reasons. First, if you suffered a serious injury, your medical expenses are going to start accumulating very quickly, including hospital bills, follow-up doctor visits, physical therapy, and prescription medications. In addition, the process of filing a personal injury lawsuit takes time, from obtaining copies of medical records and police reports to contacting witnesses who were at the scene of the accident. If you wait until the last minute to file your claim and you are unable to collect all of the evidence by the deadline, your claim may be denied, or you may receive a smaller settlement offer than you expected. Also, if you wait to file a claim, the other party may argue that your injuries must not have been very serious if you did not take immediate steps to file a claim.
How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Oftentimes, motorists become stressed and overwhelmed immediately following a car accident. However, if you take a moment to relax and keep the following tips in mind, you will be prepared if you need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit:
- Collect evidence: In order to avoid a situation where it is your word against the other driver’s, you are urged to collect as much evidence as possible. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so if you are lacking evidence, , they will try to use that against you so that they can pay you a lower settlement. You can avoid this problem by collecting photographs of the damage, witness testimony, a police report, and other forms of evidence.
- Seek medical attention. Seek immediate medical attention. Even if your injuries seem minor, you could have an underlying injury, or an injury that is masked by the adrenaline that is coursing through your body. If you do not seek medical attention, the other party or the insurance company may argue that your injuries must not be very serious if you did not feel it was necessary to be examined by a health care professional.
- Exchange information. When interacting with the other driver, keep the conversation to a minimum and focus on exchanging information with each other, including name, address, phone number, insurance information, driver’s license number, and license plate number. Never apologize for anything, even if you are just trying to be nice. This can be interpreted as you admitting fault and can be used against you during the claims process.
- Contact a car accident lawyer. It is in your best interest to have a dedicated car accident lawyer on your side, particularly if you intend to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. A lawyer will assist you with every step of the claims process and review all settlement offers. Oftentimes, the insurance company will make an initial settlement offer that may seem like a lot of money. However, in the vast majority of cases, an initial settlement offer rarely comes close to the total expenses associated with the accident, particularly if you suffered serious injuries and will require ongoing medical care.
What if I File a Lawsuit After the Statute of Limitations Expires?
In most cases, if you miss the deadline, your claim will be denied and you will no longer be able to pursue a personal injury claim. If you file a claim two years plus one day after the date of the accident, you may file the lawsuit, but the lawyers representing the other motorist will have the opportunity to respond to the claim. Once they see that you filed the claim after the statute of limitations has expired, they will most certainly ask the court to dismiss the case and you may even be ordered to pay the other party’s court costs and attorney fees.
On rare occasions, there are exceptions to the rule and the statute of limitations may be extended. Exceptions include the following:
- The injured party is a minor, in which case the statute of limitations does not begin until they turn 18 years old.
- The injured motorist was driving for work and wants to file a Workers’ Compensation claim instead of a personal injury claim.
- If the accident causes a fatality, the surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date of the person’s death.
- If the injured party is in a coma or otherwise incompetent after the accident, the statute of limitations is paused until they regain consciousness and become competent again.
Is it Always Necessary to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident?
There may be circumstances where it is not necessary to hire a car accident lawyer. For example, if the accident was a minor fender-bender and you suffered minimal injuries, you may be able to resolve the issue with your insurance company and move on. However, keep in mind that insurance companies are not looking out for your best interests. Their goal is to settle the matter by paying you as little money as possible. If you are considering whether or not you should hire a car accident lawyer, consider whether the following factors apply to you and your case:
- You and/or the other passengers in your vehicle were seriously injured in the accident.
- A family member was killed in the accident.
- You suffered injuries that prevent you from being able to return to work.
- The injuries affect your quality of life.
- The accident was caused by another person’s negligence.
If one or more of the above statements apply to you, it is in your best interest to contact a skilled lawyer.
What Damages May I Be Eligible to Receive if I am Injured in a Car Accident?
If you are able to prove that your injuries were caused by another person’s negligence, you may be eligible for the following damages:
- All medical costs associated with the injury.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
However, Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that the damages you can recover will be reduced if you are partially responsible for causing the accident. For example, if you were driving five miles per hour above the speed limit and another vehicle hit your car after the driver failed to stop at a red light, a jury may find the other driver to be 80 percent at fault and you at 20 percent at fault. Therefore, if you were otherwise entitled to a $10,000 settlement, it would be reduced by 20 percent, which would be $8,000. If your share of the fault exceeds 50 percent, you will be ineligible to collect any damages.
Savannah Car Accident Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Can Assist With the Claims Process if You Have Been Injured in a Collision
If you were injured in a car accident and you wish to pursue your legal options, you are urged to contact one of our Savannah car accident lawyers at Kicklighter Law. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and ensure that your claim is filed well before the statute of limitations expires. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Located in Springfield, Georgia, we serve clients throughout Effingham County, Savannah, and the surrounding areas.