Were you in a car accident in the State of Georgia and need to obtain…
If you are involved in a traffic accident, your actions at the scene could cast a very long shadow. Fleeing the scene could lead to arrest and imprisonment, and admitting fault could make it extremely difficult for you to argue later that the other driver was to blame.
Nathan Fitzpatrick is an experienced personal injury attorney who has advocated for car accident victims for over a decade. In this article, he explains the steps that should be taken and the mistakes that should be avoided in the minutes and hours following a motor vehicle collision.
Why Knowing What to Do After a Car Accident Matters
Speeding, alcohol consumption, and distraction make accidents all but unavoidable even for careful drivers, so it is essential to know what to do after a car accident. Being involved in even a minor fender-bender can cause stress, but being prepared can make things a lot easier. However, knowing what to do after a car accident can help you avoid common mistakes.
If you strike another vehicle or another vehicle strikes you, there will be police officers to contend with, other drivers to exchange information with, and witnesses to question. All of these interactions could make pursuing compensation easier or more difficult.
The Immediate Steps Following a Car Accident
Even minor auto accidents can cause serious injuries, so it is always wise to be evaluated by a medical professional after a collision. Some traffic accident injuries do not present symptoms immediately, so you should be checked by an EMT or visit an emergency room even if you feel fine.
If you forgo medical treatment and find out later that you suffered a head, neck, or soft-tissue injury, the other driver or their insurance company could claim that your injury was preexisting or suffered after the accident. It's crucial to keep your insurance company informed about the situation as well. Other steps you should take after being involved in a motor vehicle accident include assessing the situation, contacting the police, and filing an accident report.
1. Assessing the Situation Right After the Car Accident
Car accident scenes are usually pretty hectic, so having a plan to deal with them is crucial. The first thing that you should do is assess the scene and piece together the sequence of events. You should consider the actions you and the other driver took in the moments leading up to the crash. It would be best if you also took note of the road and weather conditions.
Once you've assessed the scene and pieced together the sequence of events, it's also a perfect time to photograph all vehicles involved before they are moved or towed away. You could also exchange information with the other driver and gather contact details from witnesses. If people are reluctant to share information, you should wait for the police to arrive.
2. When to Contact a Police Officer After a Car Accident
Many people think that calling 911 is not necessary after a minor motor vehicle collision, but this is rarely true. Title 40 of the Georgia Code requires motorists to report accidents to the authorities when any person is killed or injured, or repairing property damage will cost $500 or more. Few automobile repair bills are lower than $500, which means almost all auto accidents in Georgia should be reported.
Notification must be made immediately and using the fastest means of communication available. Failing to notify the authorities about a reportable automobile accident is a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a jail sentence of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $1,000.
3. Filing an Accident Report: What You Need to Know
When police officers arrive at the scene of the accident, they gather the information they need to complete a police report. Your police report contains information about the other driver and other motorists involved. It also contains information about the vehicle the other driver was using, the location of the accident, the prevailing weather conditions, and the names of any eyewitnesses.
Police officers also allocate blame when they write the police report. They do so because Georgia is an at-fault state, which means that drivers who cause accidents are held responsible. When a police officer questions you at the scene of the accident, you should bear this fact in mind and be very careful about what you say. Your police report is usually available from the investigating law enforcement agency after a few days.
Dealing With The Auto Insurance Company
Insurance companies use police reports and the results of their investigations to allocate blame after a car accident and determine which policy should pay compensation. YIt important to promptly report any accident you are involved in to your insurance company. If the circumstances indicate fault on the part of the other driver, you may be eligible for compensation from their insurance. You should also check your auto insurance policy because most insurers require accidents to be reported within strict time limits.
Navigating the Complex World of Car Insurance After an Accident
When you report an accident to your insurance company, an adjuster will be assigned to evaluate your auto insurance claim. Insurance adjusters are skilled professionals whose primary goal is settling auto insurance claims for as little as possible. While an insurance adjuster may seem to be on your side, nothing could be further from the truth.
During settlement negotiations, you can expect your medical bills to be scrutinized closely and your account of the events to be questioned. Your medical records could be examined to determine whether or not your injuries were preexisting, and experts may be contacted to verify that the treatment you received was necessary.
The intense scrutiny of your medical bills and the questioning of your account of the events are why it is a good idea to get a medical evaluation and gather as much information as possible at the accident scene
How a Car Accident Could Affect Your Insurance Rates
Not all motorists involved in accidents end up paying more for car insurance. Unfortunately, most of them do. State laws influence the amount that premiums increase following a collision. Therefore, where a driver resides determines how much their insurance premiums might increase after an accident.
When researchers from the personal finance website ValuePenguin contacted insurance companies to find out how much a single accident would increase auto policy premiums in each state, they discovered that crashing in Georgia would increase rates by about 56%. If you were not to blame, your premiums may not increase because Georgia is an at-fault state.
Essential Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim Post-Accident
All of the information provided in an auto accident claim will be scrutinized closely by the insurance company, so it is important that you think carefully before filling out the paperwork. You should be honest and truthful because misstatements could be used to cast doubt over your account of the events, but you should be careful not to draw attention to your own negligent behavior. Make sure that you mention the pain and emotional anguish you felt following the crash, but refrain from using overly dramatic language.
Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can have serious legal consequences. Drivers who run red lights, exceed posted speed limits, or get behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs can be arrested if they are involved in accidents, and they can be charged with vehicular homicide if a life is lost. Even when drivers who cause accidents are not arrested, they can be sued by road users who suffer injury, loss, or damage.
Legal Obligations and Responsibilities Following an Accident
Drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents in Georgia are required by state law to remain at the scene and assist injured road users. They must contact the emergency services if any person has suffered injuries, and they must provide their information to responding police officers. Fleeing the scene of an accident is usually a misdemeanor offense in Georgia, but drivers who leave the scenes of accidents that cause death can face felony charges.
Seeking Legal Counsel: When and Why?
Seeking legal counsel after a minor accident that caused no injuries and little property damage may not be necessary, but it would be wise to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney after a major crash. This should be done as quickly as possible because accidents often make mistakes during the early stages of an accident investigation. If you are involved in an accident, an attorney could:
Help you to complete the insurance claim paperwork
Advise you about what to say to police officers and the insurance adjuster
File a lawsuit if the other driver does not have enough coverage to provide adequate compensation
Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf
Gather evidence that could support your claims process
Health and Safety
Many people who suffer car accident injuries yearly do not find out they were hurt until hours, days, or weeks later. That is because the body releases adrenaline in response to stress, which can mask pain and conceal symptoms. Your health and well-being are more important than your car, so you should seek medical attention at an accident scene even if you feel that it is unnecessary. Seeking treatment immediately could also improve your chances of receiving fair compensation.
Monitoring Your Health After an Accident
Monitoring your health and symptoms in the weeks following a motor vehicle accident is important because it aids in your recovery and provides evidence that could be useful when you sit down to negotiate a settlement. You should keep a diary to track your symptoms and note the amount of pain and discomfort you endure, and you should also list all of the activities that you can no longer enjoy. Attending all of your medical appointments and following your doctor’s orders are also important because an insurance company could suggest that you are exaggerating your injuries if you ignore medical advice.
AARP Guidelines: Senior Citizens and Auto Accidents
Our bodies become more fragile as we age, so it is essential for senior car accident victims to seek medical treatment immediately. According to the AARP, older vehicle occupants should always be evaluated by medical professionals after a traffic accident because they are more likely than younger road users to suffer severe neck and head injuries. The advocacy group also advises senior citizens to avoid arguments at accident scenes even if they are being blamed unfairly.
How to Protect Yourself in the Future
Distracted, impaired, and reckless motorists will continue to cause accidents until human beings are taken out of the driving equation by autonomous vehicles. That day is still a long way off, so it would be wise to take precautions that could protect you the next time you crash. Installing a dashboard camera is one of the best things you can do to ensure nobody can question what happened and who was to blame. Police departments have used dashboard cameras for years to record traffic stops and other law enforcement interactions, and now consumers can buy these devices for less than $100.
AARP Recommendations for Avoiding Future Accidents
There comes a point where age makes it impossible to operate a motor vehicle safely. Some senior citizens reach this point in their 70s, but others continue to drive without issue into their 80s or 90s. The AARP advises senior citizens to speak frankly with their doctors on this issue and abide by their recommendations. The AARP also encourages senior citizens to drive vehicles equipped with semi and fully autonomous safety systems and features like lane departure warnings, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
Insurance Options for Enhanced Protection
When drivers in Georgia are sued, it is usually because they caused an accident and did not carry enough insurance coverage to compensate the road users they injured adequately. Motorists in the Peach State are only required to carry $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person and $50,000 of bodily injury coverage per incident, which will be used up quickly if accident injuries are serious and medical bills are high.
If you want to avoid being sued over a car accident, you would be wise to choose higher coverage limits. You could also choose a policy that offers comprehensive, uninsured motorist and personal injury protection coverage.
Car Accidents Are Unfortunate, but an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer Can Make All the Difference
Being involved in a motor vehicle accident, dealing with police officers, and then going through the auto insurance claims process can all be very stressful experiences. Insurance companies benefit from this stress because accident victims under pressure tend to settle their claims quickly and inexpensively. If you want to receive fair compensation for your car accident injuries, you should go into negotiations with an experienced professional by your side.
The Fitzpatrick Law Firm has recovered millions of dollars for car accident victims, and we are ready to serve you. If you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options, you can complete our form below or call us at (678) 607-5550.