When we buy auto insurance required to register and drive a car in Georgia, we hope we never have to rely on it. In fact, most people will drive for years without getting into an accident. When we do, it is most likely that only a property damage claim will result. We turn in the damage report and let the insurance company figure things out.
But what happens when a personal injury or death results from the accident. This blog post will explain how personal injury auto accident insurance works in Georgia and why it is important to have experienced legal representation.
Definition Of Terms
First, it is important to understand the most important terms used on your insurance policy: Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability. Under current Georgia law, drivers must carry a minimum of $25,000 Bodily Injury coverage per person and $50,000 per occurrence (crash). The minimum Property Damage liability is currently set at $25,000 per occurance.
If you have purchased the minimum amount of Bodily Injury coverage, it means your own insurance company will be liable for paying up to $25,000 of an injured party’s medical care (or wrongful death) in the event you are found to be at fault for causing the accident.
A third important term – Physical Damage Insurance – is commonly referred to as collision insurance, which covers the cost of repairing or replacing your own vehicle. It is not required by law in Georgia, but most banks require it if they are going to finance the purchase.
When and Who Do You Sue For Damages?
Most people have heard of no-fault insurance. This means that each driver files a bodily injury claim against their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy. The driver collects up to the amount of PIP coverage they have purchased and may only sue the negligent driver for any amount over and above their PIP coverage.
However, Georgia IS NOT a state that follows no-fault auto insurance laws. Any injured party may sue the other party for the full amount of financial damages. Damages typically include medical costs; lost earnings and wages; pain and suffering; and other costs directly resulting from the accident.
It is assumed in most car accidents that each driver probably shared some amount of negligence. Georgia is one of 12 states which currently subscribe to the Modified Comparative Fault rule; a driver who is found to be more than 50 percent responsible (at fault) for the accident may not sue the other party for any amount of damages. Surprisingly, there are currently four states that allow an injured party to sue the other driver even if they, themselves, were determined to be 99 percent at fault.
So, What Is The Process For Seeking Compensation?
Of course, this means that the first half of any personal injury lcase requires determining which driver is at fault and which insurance company should be held liable for damages. In many cases, this fight will be between the insurance company attorneys. Not surprisingly, this is often the critical phase of the litigation. Naturally, neither insurance company wants to pay and will fight aggressively to avoid financial liability for their own policyholder’s negligence.
How Much Compensation?
After liability has been established, the claim comes down to the amount of full and fair compensation to be paid. It is not unusual for injured parties to sue their own insurance provider for more money than the initial settlement offer. Many people, however, may be enticed to accept the first settlement offer presented to them. This can be a big mistake because the full amount of damages may not be evident for many months. Once you sign the check, you forfeit your right to sue for additional compensation. This phase of the litigation process is the reason why it is so important to have an aggressive, knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side.
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in northwest Georgia, Gammon, Anderson & McFall, in Cedartown will answer your questions.