What Is A Personal Injury Lawyer?
A very basic question that some people ask is what is a personal injury lawyer or attorney? Personal injury lawyers and attorneys represent clients that have been physically injured, mentally injured or their reputations have been damaged in some way due to the fault or negligence of someone else.
All of those things encompass personal injuries. Most personal injury attorneys deal with physical and personal injuries to the body commonly occurred after an auto accident or a slip and fall. And that's the majority of our practice as well.
How Long Do I Have To File A Personal Injury Claim In The State Of Georgia?
Generally speaking, you have two years from the day of the accident to file a claim.
Technically what that really means is, you can file a claim up to two years and if you're unable to settle that claim with the insurance company, you have until the two-year expiration date to file a lawsuit.
It is very important that you remember the statute of limitations says that if you don't file your claim, or you don't file your lawsuit, rather, within a two-year period, your claim is barred by law. Which means you've lost your ability to collect from the at-fault party.
Keep in mind, if your accident happened today, start your clock, two years from today if your claim is not settled or a lawsuit is not filed you have lost your ability to collect from the at-fault party.
How Do I Get My Car Repaired After An Auto Accident?
Well, that's a process all by itself. If you have your own insurance carrier that will pay for those damages that's an option, and we understand most people don't want to file a claim with their own insurance company, so the best thing to do is after you've called an experienced personal injury attorney is a claim should be set up with the at-fault party.
Most times you can't do that until you get the accident report, but I would encourage you while you're on the scene get the name, number, and policy number of the person that hit you and so that way you can expedite the process for setting up a claim with that person's insurance company.
That insurance company, the at-fault insurance company, will assign an adjuster or an appraiser to come out and look at the damages and either give you an estimate right there on the spot or give you directions as to which collision centers or body shops you can take your vehicle to for an inspection and allow that collision center or body shop to give you an estimate for the repair of damages.
Now, if your accident was so severe that the car cannot be repaired and is deemed a total loss well that process is a little different. Once your car has been declared a total loss, and basically what that means is the cost of repairing the car exceeds the value of the vehicle and once that happens the insurance company is going to make a determination as to the fair market value of your vehicle and cut you a check. That check goes directly to you. The attorney should not get a piece of that, that is 100% your money.
How Much Is My Car Accident Worth?
We get this question all the time, “How much is my car accident worth? How much is my personal injury case actually worth?” Let me tell you, folks, don't ask that question at the beginning. And let me tell you why.
You may get an answer that is not credible. Sometimes some lawyers may give you a little bit of false hope, if you will, just to get your business. I would avoid attorneys who are so eager to give you a value of the case from day one.
The reason I say that is because one, you don't know how much your medical bills are going be. Two, you don't know the full extent of your damages, meaning your injuries. And three, there needs to be time to evaluate your lost wages and the pain and suffering. And the pain and suffering is going to include everything from your inability to sleep comfortably at night, to having trouble performing your duties at work, and again, lost wages and lost income.
So we typically like to evaluate the value of the case after we've had time to fully assess all of your injuries, all of your bills, all of your lost wages, and all of your pain and suffering, and whether or not you're going to need future medical care. That takes several months to assess, and so I would avoid getting caught up on someone giving you a false hope at the very beginning of the case if they haven't taken the time to fully evaluate all of those factors I've just mentioned.
How Should I Handle A Call From The At-Fault Person's Insurance Company?
Very simple. You don't. Refer that call to your attorney's office. Or, simply let the adjuster know that you are represented and give the adjuster your attorney's information.
Now sometimes there are exceptions to that rule. Those exceptions would include dealing with your car when your car is damaged in an automobile accident. You will be notified sometimes from what is called a property adjuster. That property adjuster is specifically dedicated to dealing with the damages of the vehicle, evaluating the damages of your vehicle, and dealing with whether or not the vehicle is going be repaired, or deemed a total loss.
In those limited cases, it's okay to speak with the at-fault insurance company. But if you're not certain that this is the only reason they're calling you, my advice to you is to refer them to your attorney. If you have any questions about that, give us a call, and we'd be glad to help you figure that out.
Now there are times when the at-fault insurance company will send you forms in the mail. Sometimes those forms will include authorizations for medical releases. You don't want to fill those out. Why? Because it may give the at-fault insurance company access to your medical records, and they may discover things that have absolutely nothing to do with your claim or your injury.
Believe it or not, they will attempt to use your past medical issues against you. Sometimes it's helpful, sometimes it's not. But in most cases, they're generally going to try to use the information against you. So the rule of thumb is, any correspondence, any phone calls, I would not advise any of our clients to speak directly to the at-fault insurance company.
And certainly under no circumstances would I advise filling out any of their forms and turning these forms back in to the insurance company. If you don't have legal training, you just might get yourself in more trouble than it's worth. Just send it to your lawyer. That's the easiest way to handle it.
Will I Have To Go To Trial For My Personal Injury Case?
The answer is maybe. 90% of the cases that we handle are settled without going to trial, but there are times when the insurance company is either unreasonable, or there's a dispute as to who's at fault, and in those cases we have to file a lawsuit, and we file a lawsuit your case will have to go to trial.
Now the trial process generally takes about a year to two years. That includes filing a lawsuit, engaging in what's called discovery, doing depositions and interrogatories, and dealing with the court system. Those times, and in those particular instances, your participation is very important. So, you've got to remember everything that happened.
You've got to have your witnesses together, you've gotta have all your evidence together, and more importantly, you should have been treated by medical professionals to make sure that you've received the absolute best care that you needed in order to heal from your injuries.
Once all that takes place, we gather all of your evidence including photos from the accident, depositions, and what are called narratives, from your doctors as well as all of your medical bills, and we put all these things together and we present all of this information in front of a jury of 6 or 12, to determine how much you should receive in compensation.
Here at The Graham Firm, we are litigators. We litigate cases, meaning that we actually go into the courtroom, try cases against the other side, to get you the result that you deserve. If you have a question about what I've said today or an individual question about your case, give us a call at 404-526-9955 and I'd be happy to help you.
What Is Diminished Value?
Diminished value or a diminished value claim is a legal concept that allows you to collect compensation from the At-Fault Insurance Company for the diminished value of your vehicle.
Now how is that determined? Well as you know most people know when you go to buy a car, you can do what's called CARFAX Report and in those reports, you look to see if the car has ever been damaged.
Well certainly if you've discovered that a car you are interested in buying has been in an accident, you're not going to pay the same value or the same price for that vehicle as compared to a car that has never been in an accident, right? Right.
So what we do is we go out and collect the difference between the value of your vehicles before or without an accident and the value of your vehicle after an accident. That gap of that difference is called the diminished value. It is a claim that a lot of attorneys miss and in most cases, it could add thousands of dollars to the value of your case.