When you are involved in an auto accident
that causes you injury and/or loss, you may be legally entitled to compensation under the law. The specific laws of each state, however, provide context and guidance for how that compensation may be obtained, how much it will be, etc. Here in Georgia, certain laws have an impact on how a personal injury attorney will approach your case to give you the best chances for a positive outcome. Let’s take a look at auto accident laws in Georgia that can affect your case.
Statute of limitations
Every state has different rules regarding statutes of limitations – that is, the time window after an offense within which you can sue (or, in criminal cases, the window during which the government may charge and prosecute someone for an alleged crime). Here in Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing suit in auto accident injury cases is two years from the time of the accident. If you wait longer than that to sue for damages, the court will throw out your case. Since many cases are complex and take time to process, we recommend consulting with a personal injury attorney as soon as feasible after your auto accident. Not only does this give you and your attorney the maximum amount of time to prepare your case, but it also may keep some evidence from getting “cold,” thereby possibly reducing your settlement amount.
One of the key factors in proving a personal injury case is proving that the defendant was negligent
in his/her actions contributing to the accident. However, some states temper this factor with a provision called comparative negligence. This concept starts with the base assumption that both parties may have contributed to the accident, and therefore fault and negligence in can be attributed to each party by a percentage. This, of course, can affect the amount of your settlement.
To illustrate, let’s assume that you’re in an injury accident occurring at night. The other driver was speeding and drifting lanes, but your car happened to have one headlight out, which the defendant claims affected his ability to see you. Let’s suppose the court determines the other driver was 70 percent negligent, and you were 30 percent negligent. The resulting settlement will therefore be reduced by 30 percent of what you might have received otherwise.
The state of Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state with a 50 percent bar line. This muddies the waters even further. Essentially, if you cannot prove that the other driver was at least 50 percent negligent, the courts will award you nothing. Thus, proving negligence is one of the most important aspects of any Georgia auto accident case.
No-fault or tort?
States generally have no-fault provisions, tort provisions or a combination of the two. “No-fault” means the state requires you to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, and that you can file a claim against this insurance regardless of who is at fault. In exchange, you forfeit the right to sue the other party for damages that your PIP will cover. “Tort” is essentially the opposite concept, stating that fault can be wholly or partially assigned, and that parties at fault should compensate the victim.
Here in Georgia, we are a “fault” or “tort” state, meaning the state does not require PIP insurance and that you have the right to sue for damages in any amount when you are injured. You may also seek compensation from multiple avenues (e.g. filing a claim with your insurance AND suing both individuals and companies as applicable). This works in your favor as the victim.
Caps on settlements or awards
Some states place limitations (or “caps”) on the amount of money you can receive for particular types of damages. The underlying idea is to try and discourage frivolous lawsuits from cluttering the dockets, but it can also stop victims from receiving the full benefits they might need. In Georgia, however, there are no such caps, so there is no limit on how much you can sue for, or how much the courts can award you.
Sutton Slover focuses our practice exclusively on personal injury cases, including auto accidents. We have a deep understanding of the auto accident laws in Georgia that can affect your case, and we know the best ways to prepare your case within these laws to give you the best chance of receiving all the compensation you deserve. For a free case evaluation, call us today at 404.768.0292.