In Georgia, it is not always necessary to hire an attorney for your car accident claim. Our rule of thumb is that if your case involves only damage to your car or you were only treated at the emergency room for minor injuries, you may not need an attorney. In these instances, it’s possible to wind up with more money if you handle the case yourself because you will not pay legal fees.
However, there are times when even “small” cases can benefit from an attorney’s expertise. For example, if you have difficulty paying for medical care or dealing with your health insurance company, a lawyer may be able to help. If you were hit by a drunk driver, for instance, punitive damages may be available, but are be difficult to collect without the help of an experienced attorney.
We understand that you may be worried about the cost of hiring a lawyer. However, rest assured, there is no charge to call our law office and discuss your case with one of our friendly attorneys. No question is too small. We will be honest and up front with you about whether and how much we can help.
When Is a Lawyer Not Needed for a Car Accident Case?
You may not need a lawyer when fault is not in dispute, your injuries are minor, you went to the emergency room but did not require follow-up care, or you only missed a few days of work.
Fault is not disputed, and your injury is minor. In Georgia, if the other driver was ticketed and paid the fine, it is considered a legal admission of wrongdoing. If you also have a small injury, you can probably work out a fair settlement with the insurance company on your own. If not, you may want to consider filing suit in Magistrate Court, also known as small-claims court or “the people’s court.”
You went to the emergency room or urgent care but did not need follow-up medical attention. If you visited the emergency room or urgent care after your accident but had no need for follow-up treatment, you may not require a lawyer. For example, if your bills were only $1,000 to $2,000 and you made a full recovery, hiring a lawyer – even on a contingent fee – is probably not cost effective.
You only missed a few days of work. If you missed a day or two of work and received minimal medical care, you likely do not need an attorney. There is a good chance that by the time your lawyer and your medical bills are paid, you will not wind up with any significant money in your pocket.
If you have a small case, the attorneys in our office can help answer your questions on the phone. They may also explain how you might represent yourself to settle the case or file suit in a Georgia Magistrate Court.
When Should You Have a Lawyer Review Your Case?
There are certain times when you should absolutely have a lawyer review your case. Some examples are if you were hit by a drunk driver; have severe injuries or complicated medical care; have hospital, insurance, or medical liens; or suffered a loss of income due to an inability to work after an accident.
You were hit by a drunk driver. Even if your injuries are not serious, if you were hit by a drunk driver, a lawyer can help you recover punitive damages. If your injury was quite serious or the driver was a multiple-offender, this is an even stronger reason to hire a lawyer. Insurance companies know that court-awarded punitive damages can be quite large in a driving under the influence (DUI) accident. However, insurance adjusters also understand that without a lawyer to take the drunk driver to court, you may lack the ability to prove and collect punitive damages.
Severe injuries and complex medical care. If you suffered a fractured bone, herniated disk, severe sprain, or any injury that requires follow-up care with a doctor after your ER or urgent care visit, you should speak with a lawyer. Serious injuries often deserve more compensation, which may only be obtained by a well put-together case that can be litigated in court.
Medical and hospital liens. Even if you have health coverage, your insurance carrier may place a lien on your case, entitling them to part of your settlement. An attorney can help you negotiate, reduce, or eliminate a lien, so you can keep more of your money.
You have lost income. Severe injuries often mean extended recovery periods, large medical bills, and lost current and future income. Insurance companies love to play hardball when it comes to proving lost pay. They will continually ask for documentation, only to tell you it’s not good enough. A good personal injury lawyer knows how to deal with this type of nonsense from adjusters and recover your lost income.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist claims (UIM). If you have UIM coverage on your own personal automobile insurance policy, do not count on your insurance provider to notify you and pay extra money on your claim. Have your policy and coverage reviewed by an attorney. If you were badly hurt and the at-fault driver has a small insurance policy, you may be entitled to receive additional money from the UIM coverage you already purchased and paid for.
Tractor-trailer and commercial truck crashes. After a tractor-trailer wreck, written and electronic records from the trucking company should be gathered and reviewed. An experienced trucking attorney can obtain evidence, including GPS data, electronic log books, and maintenance records from the trucking company. If it is proven that the trucker or his/her employer was operating in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules, your injury case may be even larger. These records can be difficult for an individual to obtain without legal assistance.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me the Most?
If your injury and medical care are significant or complicated, or if you are being partially blamed for the accident, a good personal injury lawyer can assist you with a variety of difficult tasks. Here are some of the ways an attorney can assist you with a personal injury case.
A personal injury lawyer can help you find medical care. After a car accident, you are expected to pay for your own medical care, until you are finally reimbursed by the at-fault driver, usually through their insurance company. Our office is contacted regularly by accident victims who do not have medical insurance. Over the years, we have developed relationships with medical doctors we trust who can often provide excellent care on a lien. We have been able to help many people find a trustworthy doctor who can be paid when your case settles in the future.
If you do have health insurance, we recommend using your coverage and letting us help you negotiate any reimbursement claims by your insurer.
We can help you avoid mistakes and keep your claim on track. We understand that it can be difficult to make and keep all of your medical appointments. And, when you are not getting better as fast as you want, there is a temptation to stop treating and “trust” that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will understand. They won’t. When it is difficult to get and keep your medical care going, you probably have more options than you know.
This is where our decades of experience come in. We are your counselors and advisors and can share the pros and cons of how your medical care can affect the amount of compensation you might receive in the end. Stopping treatment early or over-treating can have detrimental effects on your case.
Likewise, we can also help you negotiate a fair billing amount with your medical providers.
Here are some of the sources we can help you obtain liability and health insurance coverage from:
- Automobile insurance coverage available from other cars in the at-fault driver’s household
- Umbrella coverages
- Stacking automobile coverages
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)
- Health insurance
- Medical payments coverage
- Medicaid medical benefits
- Georgia Peachcare for Children
We can assist you with health care reimbursement claims and liens. When your case settles, you may be faced with liens from health insurance providers, insurers, or government providers from which your benefits were received. There are legal ways to negotiate, reduce, or even avoid certain liens completely.
Approximately 95% of the time, our office can reduce or eliminate certain liens, which means more money in your pocket.
Examples of Our Work and Case Results
“$25,000 policy,” over $3.4 million recovered. In 2016, our client was injured when a car-wash attendant struck him in a parking lot. The insurance company claimed to have a $100,000 insurance policy. Because our client had no health insurance, we were able to find several doctors who provided treatment on a medical lien. When our office demanded the $100,000 policy limits within 30 days, the insurance company failed to pay in time, then claimed to have only a $25,000 insurance policy. Eventually, the case settled at mediation for more than $3.4 million.
Teacher offered $22,000, recovered $100,000. Our client, an elementary school teacher, was rear-ended. She suffered severe soft tissue injuries, but luckily made a full recovery. She and her husband tried to handle the case on their own against State Farm, but the insurance company only offered $22,000. Once our office got involved and presented a demand package to cover all of her medical bills and lost wages, State Farm paid the at-fault driver’s $100,000 policy limit. The teacher’s health insurance company then claimed a $16,000 reimbursement lien. We were able to avoid repaying the lien completely because our client was not “made whole.” Under Georgia law, this invalidated the government employee’s health insurance lien.