What to Expect If You Are a Personal Injury Victim in Georgia
No one expects to be involved in an incident that causes serious injuries such as a car crash, trucking accident, medical misdiagnosis or slip and fall accident. Unfortunately, tragic accidents that result in catastrophic injuries and even death are common. When a person suffers personal injuries in an incident like a motor vehicle accident, it is sudden and unexpected so accident victims are typically unprepared to deal with the consequences. The stress and anxiety of suffering injuries in a serious accident often is compounded by a lack of familiarity with the legal process.
While nothing can completely alleviate the stress of a sudden car wreck, understanding what to expect and how to proceed can sometimes demystify the process and make it less intimidating. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing those injured by the negligence of others for nearly 30 years. We have provided this roadmap of what to expect and what to do after a motor vehicle accident.
Hiring an Attorney: It you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to know your legal rights and the actions that you must take to protect those rights. There are legal time deadlines that apply to all matter, and additionally there can be deadlines and requirements in various insurance policies that must be complied with. It is always prudent to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Studies done by the insurance industry show that on average accident victims get paid considerably more money when they retain a lawyer to represet them. Once you have retained a personal injury law firm, the firm will investigate your accident and build your case file, which involves gathering information from your employer and medical providers, and any other evidence they feel is needed. After your personal injury attorney has completed an investigation and determined the value of your damages, your personal injury lawyer will typically send a "demand packet" to the other driver's insurance company. A demand packet typically includes: (1) a description of the accident; (2) why the insurance company's policyholder is at fault (a discussion of the law and how it applies to the specific facts of the case; (3) an explanation of your injuries; (4) details on your lost income and projected disability; and (5) a formal demand for a specified sum. Depending on the circumstances of the case it may include an analysis of the applicable law, and other enclosures.
Medical Treatment: It is critical that you seek diagnostic evaluation and medical treatment immediately so that you recieve the treatment you need and to document that effects of the accident. Any delay in seeking treatment may compromise your claim. It is also important that you disclose all symptoms and follow through on all proposed treatment. If you fail to seek or follow through on medical treatment, you jeopardize your healing process and may greatly reduce your financial compensation.
Do Not Discuss Your Accident: You should never discuss your accident or injuries with the other party or their insurance company. The information you provide will never help your case but may later be used to support the insurance company's position that their insured is either not at fault or did not cause your injuries. Even where liability is clear, the insurance company may use any information you provide to suggest your injuries are not severe and reduce the damages to which you are entitled. The bottom line is that you should not discuss your case with anyone but your personal injury lawyer or a your immediate family.
Maintain a Journal: A car accident scene is a confusing chaotic environment. It is easy to become confused about the details. An accident victim is also under so much stress and pain that it can be hard to remember exactly what one saw and did. You should keep a journal where you record what you observe and see as well as documenting your medical treatment, pain and suffering and changes in your daily life. You should provide a clear record of how your daily routine and family interactions have been affected by your motor vehicle accident.
Keep All Records of Expenses: You should maintain all receipts and bills that document your medical expenses and any other out of pocket expenses related to the accident. These documents will be important to quantify your damages and should be provided to your personal injury attorney.
Maintaining Evidence: You should make sure you preserve all parts of your vehicle and keep your vehicle in the same condition so that it can be evaluated. Do not throw away any debris that may have resulted from the auto collision. It is also a good idea to take photographs of the accident scene from multiple angles. The photos should also document the condition of both vehicles, and if possible, their location following the accident. When you take photos, it is a good idea to capture the surrounding area so that your personal injury attorney can assess whether there are roadway conditions or other factors that contributed to the accident. It is also important that your gather contact, insurance and driver's license information for the other drivers and contact information for other witnesses at the scene.
Surveillance: Once you are involved in an auto accident, you must always assume that you may be under surveillance. Insurance companies often hire investigators who try to obtain photo or video evidence of injury victims engaging in physical activity. These pictures and video will later be used to argue that a car accident victim is faking or exaggerating one's injuries.
Complaint & Answer: The filing of a complaint officially initiates your personal injury lawsuit. The complaint contains the legal and factual basis for your lawsuit. The defendant has a fixed period of time to file a response to your complaint, which is called an "answer." The answer will admit, deny or indicate a lack of knowledge about specific allegations in the complaint. The answer may also identify specific defenses that the other party plans to assert.
Discovery: During the first few months after the complaint and answer are filed, the discovery process is conducted which permits each side to obtain evidence and information from the other side. The discovery process usually begins by a request for written interrogatories. These are questions that must be answered under penalty of perjury. A request for production of documents often accompanies the request for interrogatories. Generally, written interrogatories and requests for production of documents are followed by the taking of depositions, which is recorded testimony given under oath by any person the opposition wishes to question
Once a sufficient amount of discovery has been conducted, the parties will have opportunities to settle the case through mediation, arbitration or settlement conferences. If the parties are not able to resolve the case, the case will be tried in front of a judge or jury. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, our personal injury lawyers in Georgia have been representing victims of serious motor vehicle accidents for over 39 years and understand that the process can be confusing. If you or someone you love is seriously injured by someone's careless or intentional conduct, we will keep you informed as we handle your case so the process is understandable. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you.