When a person who is a victim of an accident or an injury caused by negligence or intention of another person, he or she is eligible to file a claim in the civil courts of Georgia. This lawsuit is termed as a personal injury claim. Personal injury claims include, but are not limited to, slip fall accidents, motor vehicle accidents, and incidents of medical malpractice.
What is Considered to be a Personal Injury in Georgia?
In Georgia, a personal injury for the purposes of compensation is any type of injury or personal property damage caused by someone else’s negligence.
There are many types of accidents that could lead to a personal injury claim or lawsuit. The commonest accidents of this type are vehicle accidents and slip and fall or trip and fall accidents. Other personal injury claims or lawsuits may result from proven medical malpractice.
Georgia is a fault state for motor vehicle accidents, which means that if you are injured in a vehicle accident, you can choose to claim through your own insurance policy, file a claim with the negligent party’s insurer or file a lawsuit.
Lawsuits are not always necessary, but may be advisable if you find that the at-fault party or that party’s insurer is trying to avoid paying compensation.
Georgia also uses a comparative fault rule for determining how much compensation can be claimed. Basically, you must have evidence that the accident, your injury and any personal property damage was caused by someone else’s negligence and that your share in any blame for the accident was less than 50%.
Most lawyers advise clients not to admit fault initially if making a claim, but insurers for the defendant often try and allege that the fault was at least partly yours to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay. If there is a shared fault assessment, you can only obtain a percentage of what you have claimed.
Statute of Limitations in a Personal Injury Case
The statute of limitations sets the time during which a person is eligible to file a personal injury claim in the court. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is as follows:
- The time to file a claim is TWO YEARS from the date on which the injury has occurred.
- If the injury occurs to a minor, then the statute of limitation starts from the time when he or she turns 18 years of age.
- If the injury was not discovered until sometime after the incident, the time limit starts from the day when the injury is discovered.
Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies in Georgia
When it comes to motor vehicle insurance claims, Georgia is a ‘fault’ state. This law gives injured persons in Georgia several options for seeking damage compensations. These options are as follows:
- They can file a claim with their own insurer, or
- File a third-party claim with the insurer of other driver, or
- File a lawsuit directly in the court
Comparative Negligence Laws in Georgia
During most of the personal injury cases, the negligent person often tries to play up the fault of the injured party to get relieved of charges. Georgia applies comparative negligence laws that reduce damages if the injured is found partially at fault in the personal injury accident. However, under these laws, if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, he or she is unable to recover any damages.
Imagine that you are speeding over an empty road and you get hit by a driver who has run a red light signal. During the case, the driver is found to be at fault, but since you yourself were speeding, you are partially at fault as well. The other driver shares 85 percent of fault while you share 15 percent. Your compensation that was supposed to be $10,000 gets reduced to $ 8,500.
How to Prepare a Personal Injury Claim in Georgia
Georgia’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the alleged accident and injury.
If you are a minor and have been injured, the two year limitation starts when you turn 18. Late detection of an injury may mean that the two year limit starts on the date of the detection of the injury and not the date of the accident.
If you have sufficient evidence that the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, e.g. through running a red light or speeding if a car accident or careless maintenance of floor surfaces if a slip and fall injury in a supermarket, then you should file your claim with the at-fault party’s insurer directly.
You should state when the accident happened, how it happened, what your injury or injuries were, if there was any property damage, and state the amount of compensation you are requesting.
You should have justification for the damages claim amount such as receipts for damage, confirmation of absence of work and wages lost, doctor’s assessment, documentation showing cost of medical treatment, etc.
If you cannot reach a settlement you should consider using a personal injury lawyer who has experience dealing with insurers.
The lawyer will usually defer legal fees until a satisfactory resolution of a legal dispute and absorb it into the compensation amount claimed.
Settlements are usually made out of court, but the lawyer will advise you whether going to court will result in a better settlement.
If you cannot show that the other party involved was liable for compensation, or it was a hit and run accident or the other party involved did not have insurance, you may have to resort to filing your claim with your own insurer.
Your insurer may then pursue the case through their own channels, e.g. seek compensation from a hit and run driver if found and charged by police.
Georgia does not impose a cap on personal injury claim amounts like some other states, but there is a cap on medical malpractice claims which are limited to $300,000 t0 $700,000 for non-economic damages (e.g. pain and suffering claims).
Damage Caps for Personal Injury
Many states have instituted damage caps that limit the amount of damage that can be awarded to the injured party of a personal injury accident. Georgia however, does not place caps on the damages awarded for personal injury cases, except for medical malpractice cases, where there is a $350,000 - $700,000 (depending on circumstances) cap for non-economic damages.
Nonetheless, if you have suffered a personal injury due to the actions of another party, such as an injury from a slip and fall incident or a car accident, you should consult with a Georgia personal injury attorney to discuss how to recover any losses you may have incurred.