The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety tells us that in 2015, on average, more than a thousand traffic collisions were reported every day in the state of Georgia. Over 1,400 people died in those collisions, and over 19,000 suffered severe injuries. Those are disturbing statistics, so it’s imperative for drivers in Georgia to know what their rights and options are after a serious accident.

If you are driving in Georgia and you are involved in a traffic accident, you’ll need to notify your auto insurance company immediately, and after most accidents, you’ll also need to file an insurance claim. However, if you are seriously injured in a traffic collision with an at-fault, negligent driver in Georgia, it’s wise to take your case directly to an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney.

Every driver in the state of Georgia needs to understand how car accident settlements work, so this will be a general introduction to the typical settlement process and time frame. Every situation, of course, will differ in the details. If the insurance company delays or fails to conduct an investigation of the accident, denies your claim, or promises to pay you and doesn’t, seek an attorney’s advice at once.

Georgia is not a “no-fault” auto insurance state. Instead, Georgia’s “fault” system for car accidents makes an at-fault driver liable under the law for the personal injuries and property damage sustained in a traffic accident, and that driver’s policy is considered first.

Someone who is injured in Georgia by another driver’s negligence thus has three options for seeking compensation:

– submitting the claim to his or her own auto insurer (which in turn will seek payment from the at-fault driver’s insurer)
– submitting a “third party” claim directly to the at-fault driver’s insurance company
– bringing a personal injury lawsuit with the help of a Georgia personal injury lawyer

WHEN A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT HAPPENS, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Under Georgia law, the drivers involved in an automobile accident in this state must report the accident at once to the local police if the accident caused injury, death, or more than $500 worth of property damage. Georgia law also requires the drivers in an accident to provide their names, personal contact details, auto insurance information, and driver’s license number to others involved in the crash. Drivers also must summon medical assistance if anyone has been injured and must stay at the site of the crash until all legal responsibilities have been satisfied.

Georgia drivers are obligated by law to carry (at least) the following minimum liability insurance:

– $25,000 for one person’s injury or death
– $50,000 total for multiple injury victims or deaths in a single accident
– $25,000 for damages to property

If you want to know the average amount of an insurance settlement for a car crash in Georgia, that question simply cannot be answered. Every settlement is based on the amount and severity of property damage and injuries, so every case and every amount will be different.

When negotiating a settlement, these are among the factors that both the claimant and the insurance company must consider:

– the claimant’s property damage and cost of repairs
– the claimant’s medical expenses, lost wages, and related pain and suffering
– the limits of the applicable insurance coverage

The legal time limit – the statute of limitations – for lawsuits arising from traffic accidents in Georgia hinges on the nature of the claim. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years; for filing a property damage lawsuit, it’s four years. Exceptions to the statutes are extremely limited, but if you’ve been seriously injured by a negligent driver in Georgia, don’t wait two years to discuss your options with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney. Do it right away.

SHOULD YOU CONDUCT AN INSURANCE NEGOTIATION BY YOURSELF?

If the only damage in a traffic collision is property damage, and you are up to the task, handling your own claim negotiation is fine. After you fill out the forms and submit any accompanying documentation, negotiating your claim usually takes only two or three phone calls and maybe a meeting with a claims adjuster. Most insurance professionals in Georgia are dedicated to helping accident victims and to making certain that they are compensated fairly and promptly.

Nevertheless, if you’ve been physically injured by a negligent driver, see an attorney first. If you’re injured, don’t sign any documents from an insurance company before you consult a personal injury lawyer – you could be signing away your right to file a lawsuit or to seek the compensation you need and deserve. When your health and your future are potentially on the line, let a trained negotiator – an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney – do the negotiating for you.

How long does it take to settle an auto insurance claim? There’s simply no way to give a blanket answer to that question, but overwhelmingly, most claims are settled in just a few weeks or several months at the most. If there’s a dispute regarding which driver was at fault, or if you are negotiating with an insurance company that is acting in bad faith, a settlement can take considerably longer, and if you have to bring a legal action, you are probably looking at a year – and maybe a bit longer if the case is complicated – before a final resolution.

WHAT IF YOU ARE INJURED BY A DRIVER WITH NO INSURANCE?

Obviously, if a negligent driver injures you, and that driver has no automobile insurance and no other financial resources, you’ll have no insurance company to deal with other than your own. According to the Insurance Research Council, about one in eight drivers in the United States is without automobile insurance, so purchasing uninsured motorist insurance coverage is a very good idea.

The law in Georgia does not force drivers to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (“UIM”). It’s up to the consumer. UIM coverage supplements a driver’s coverage when there’s an accident, when the other driver is at fault, and when that other driver has no automobile insurance at all. In Georgia, drivers may choose UIM “excess” coverage or “reduction” coverage. With reduction coverage, a driver’s UIM coverage is reduced by the amount of any insurance the other driver may carry.

Excess UIM coverage is not reduced by a negligent driver’s insurance, so it provides additional coverage when a negligent driver’s coverage is exhausted. When you choose UIM insurance, know whether it’s excess coverage or reduction coverage, and make certain that your agent fully explains all of your policy’s provisions and details. And after any traffic accident in the state of Georgia, if you have any apprehensions, questions, or concerns about dealing with or negotiating with an automobile insurance company, do not hesitate to seek the sound legal advice that an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer can provide.