Georgia Car Accident Injury Case Guide
Common Questions Answered About Georgia Car Accident Cases
How long will it take to get my money after a car accident claim is filed?
The answer to this question depends on a great variety of factors in your case. No car accident is exactly the same, after all. Generally, the most important factor is is, how badly you are injured because this usually determines how long it takes you to recover from your injuries. A offer will usually not arrive before you are either fully recovered or you are reasonably, “as good as you are going to get.” Either of these scenarios take both time and the professional opinion of your treating physicians.
Often, a serious car accident can leave you permanently affected or even disabled in some way. Medical experts, such as your own treating doctors or experts hired by you or your lawyer’s office can be brought in to evaluate your condition and render an opinion as to your long-term outlook. The insurance company must consider your prognosis in determining how much your claim is worth. Insurance companies may even bring in their own experts to refute or rebut your asserted medical condition. This process can take months, sometimes over a year, to fully establish the value of your losses. Because the value of your claim often depends on how fully you recover from the injuries caused by your car accident.
Other factors in your timeline may include the behavior of the at-fault driver. Unfortunately, sometimes, people lie. An at-fault driver may lie to the police and they may l lie to their own insurance carrier about what happened in the collision in order to save themselves the burden and potential costs of liability. It is our job to discover and prove the truth. Our law firm personally investigates and also relies upon a reliable network of talented and persistent Private Investigators and accident reconstruction experts. Once you retain our services, we will go to work finding the evidence needed to prove your case.
Even if the other party was honest about the accident and your injuries healed quickly, it still may take some time to resolve your claim. Often, insurance companies will argue that your injuries are not serious, that you are “malingering” (meaning you are faking or exaggerating your injuries), or that your injuries were pre-existing.In other words, the opposing insurance company’s claims adjuster will dispute your medical treatment and attempt to diminish the value of your claim.
This is where an experienced personal injury lawyer is often the most valuable thing for your case. A good personal injury lawyer is a also an expert in defeating the malingering defense. At The Millar Law Firm, our attorneys know how to overcome this sort of resistance and prove your damages. We have decades of experience in facing insurance company push-back and getting the compensation our clients deserve.
What is medical-legal funding, and are funding statements admissible in an accident trial?
Medical-legal funding is the means by which an injured party can finance the costs of needed medical treatment on the condition that the bills will be paid in full upon the resolution of the related civil case. In most cases, the funding entity would hold what is called a “lien” on any money recovered by the victim, which is essentially an enforceable promise to pay, whether it be from a pre-trial settlement or a judgement from the Court. The question of whether or not these records are admissible at trial is a bit more complex.
In Georgia, medical-legal funding is becoming increasingly common, because it allows car crash injury victims who do not have medical (health) insurance to receive and pay for medical treatment that they may not otherwise have access to. And ultimately, the goal is to get you back to the physical condition you were in before this accident happened, so medical-legal funding can be a valuable resource for that. A problem that can arise is that, while the client typically does not encounter a “doctor bill” while treating, if the case goes to Court the defense may try to argue that lawyers arranged the medical care or that the doctors are biased because they may be willing to inflate the severity of injury.
Traditionally, most Courts have had a somewhat specific process or procedure by which documentation of medical records and bills are admissible at trial. Among other things, the records themselves must stand up to something called “authentication” in ordered to be admitted into evidence. This typically requires a sworn statement from the official custodian of these records from the treating facility. The issue appears to be, “Is a medical-legal funding company a valid custodian of Court-admissible medical records?” Or, in the alternative, do you need the original billing statement and records from the treating doctor’s office, even if you did not ever receive a direct bill?
As of 2018, this issue remains unresolved under Georgia law. When citing O.C.G.A. 24-7-8, some Trial Court Judges rule that bills received from medical-legal funding companies are admissible as certified business records. Others are of the opinion that the statute allows only bills received from medical care providers to be admitted at trial.
If you have a personal injury case involving a car, truck or motorcycle about to go to trial in Georgia, we recommend that your attorney seek a ruling from the Trial Judge in advance of trial as to whether medical-legal funding, especially the bills received for it, will be allowed into evidence at trial to avoid any difficult surprises.
If I am injured in a collision with a city government vehicle, will “sovereign immunity” prevent me from recovering for my damages?
A claim can usually be made against a city or county government in Georgia for a car accident. The doctrine of Sovereign Immunity (immunity from suit) for car and other motor vehicle accidents is specifically waived under O.C.G.A. 36-92-2 up to a set statutory limit whether the city has purchased insurance or not.
Some cities, like Atlanta and Marietta, are self-insured and have not purchased separate liability insurance policies. But under the waiver statute, they are responsible for up to $700,000 in personal injury claims if more than one person is hurt in the incident. Further, under O.C.G.A. 33-24-51, if a municipality has purchased insurance, it will have waived its immunity up the limit of insurance even if the policy limits are higher than the statutory limit.
To be clear, many police activities are considered discretionary functions and, therefore, fall under the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. However, O.C.G.A. §40–6–6 identifies a number of uses of a police car that are considered unprotected uses of a motor vehicle. For instance, the negligent initiation or continuation of a high speed chase in Georgia will usually fall outside of Sovereign Immunity protection. If you were injured during one of these chases, by either the police vehicle or even the suspect’s car, your losses may be covered under a motor-vehicle insurance policy. The circumstances of any accident between a police officer and a member of the public should be carefully investigated.
I want to make a claim against MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority). Is an ante litem notice required?
Ante Litem literally means “before litigation” and this notice is usually required when the defendant is a municipal corporation in Georgia. “Municipal corporation” is a legal term of art for a city or county or other government entity like a public school or police department. Under O.C.G.A. §36-33-5, ante litem must be served within six months of the occurrence upon which the claim is predicated in order to put the government entity on notice that a suit is forthcoming. This would apply in cases like auto collisions and premises liability claims.
So, the question becomes, “Is MARTA considered a municipal corporation?” Surprisingly, the answer is, no. In many ways, MARTA appears to be a government agency. Its Board of Directors is composed entirely of surrounding county officials and it receives funding from sales taxes in those counties. That would certainly seem to qualify as a government operation. However, MARTA receives no State funding and is considered a private corporation under Georgia law, so the ante litem protocol does not apply.
There is, however, a stipulation that requires any lawsuit filed against MARTA must be filed in Fulton County Superior Court. This will be your only possible venue unless you have a co-defendant who lives outside of Fulton County.
What happens to a Georgia car accident injury claim or case if the injured person dies before the case is settled?
If you are reading this, you may have had a family member or close friend who passed away while his or her car accident injury case was in progress, and are wondering what to do. If this has happened, let the personal injury attorney know immediately, so that the lawyer may take steps to protect the claim and notify all appropriate parties, including the at-fault driver’s insurance company and the medical providers.
First and foremost, it must be established whether or not the death was related to the relevant injuries that are the subject of the litigation. If a reasonable correlation can be made between them, the case then becomes a “wrongful death” suit, which is typically a higher-value claim, but is litigated somewhat differently than a personal injury case.
A wrongful death case will typically involve claims brought by the heirs (the “wrongful death lawsuit”) and claims of the estate of the deceased person and generally requires the heirs or a Probate Court to appoint an administrator of estate to pursue and litigate or settle the estate’s claims.