Every year, thousands of car accidents occur across the state of Georgia. Fortunately, many crashes are relatively minor and the parties are able to escape with no injuries and only minor vehicle damage. In these situations, it is often possible to cover the cost of fixing any scrapes or dings by going through the at-fault insurer. In fact, many people skip this step completely if the damage only involves minor scrapes or dents and forego repairs or pay for them themselves.
Unfortunately, in even moderately severe crashes, insurance policies don’t always cover the entire cost of an accident, which can leave injured parties struggling to pay medical bills. In these cases, it is especially important for the injured party to retain an experienced Albany car accident attorney who can help them file a claim against the at-fault party.
In Georgia, drivers are only required to have an automobile insurance policy that covers at least $25,000 for bodily injury per person and $50,000 per accident for crashes involving injury to two or more people. Although carrying a minimum amount of insurance is better than nothing, it is usually not enough to cover injuries and property damage caused by anything but a minor accident. Injured parties who have policies that provide for underinsured drivers may be able to recoup some of their losses by filing a claim with their own insurer. Unfortunately, this can be a difficult process, even if a driver has sufficient coverage. Many drivers also do not carry these types of policies, in which case, filing a claim against the at-fault party is sometimes the only way to collect compensation.
When another driver or entity fails to use reasonable care and causes an accident, he or she can be held liable for damages in court. However, in order to collect compensation, the plaintiff will need to prove that the defendant was negligent by demonstrating that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to use reasonable care;
- The defendant breached that duty;
- The defendant’s breach caused the accident; and
- The plaintiff suffered property damage or physical injury as a result.
When another driver’s carelessness caused an accident, it is relatively simple to establish the first element because all drivers are required to exercise reasonable care when operating a vehicle. Drivers can breach this duty in a variety of ways, including by texting, speeding, or failing to obey traffic lights. Drivers are also required to ensure that their vehicles are maintained appropriately and are in working condition.
It is not always simple, however, to pinpoint who was at fault in causing a crash. This is especially true when multiple vehicles are involved in an accident or a crash was caused by a vehicle defect. A plaintiff will need access to a number of different pieces of evidence in order to establish negligence, regardless of who was at fault, including:
- Eyewitness testimony;
- Photographs from the scene of the accident;
- Any video recordings of the crash;
- The police report written by the responding officer;
- Information obtained from in-vehicle technologies;
- Phone records; and
- A reconstruction of the accident.
Collecting this type of evidence is crucial to the success of a case, but can be difficult to you were injured in a crash caused by someone else’s negligence, it is critical to speak with an experienced Albany car accident attorney who can conduct a thorough investigation.
Car Owner Negligence
In cases where the at-fault driver’s car is owned by someone else, the vehicle’s owner can also be held liable for resulting injuries, even if he or she was not present at the time of the accident. This situation arises most often when an employee is driving a company car and gets into an accident. If the employee was performing job-related duties that were within the scope of employment at the time of the crash, then the employer can be held liable for any injuries caused by that person’s negligence. Georgia also recognizes the validity of negligent entrustment claims, which means that a vehicle owner who allowed someone to drive when he or she knew that that person was incompetent or impaired can be held responsible for resulting injuries. For instance, a car owner can be required to pay damages if he or she knew that a driver was intoxicated, unlicensed, underage, or had a history of reckless driving, but still gave him or her permission to use the vehicle
In some cases, accidents are not caused by the other driver’s carelessness, but by a third party’s negligence. For example, when state and local governments fail to repair a dangerous road or bridge, they can be held accountable for resulting accidents. However, filing a claim against the government can be especially difficult because the plaintiff must comply with a series of specific procedural rules. For instance, before filing a suit against a government entity in Georgia, an injured party must first file a notice of claim within six months of the accident.
Finally, some accidents are the result of the actions of a negligent vehicle manufacturer. Manufacturers have a duty to provide consumers with vehicles that are reasonably safe. While many manufacturers take great care to design and assemble vehicles that comply with federal safety standards, mistakes still can and do occur. Defective airbags, improperly designed brakes, and other safety defects cause thousands of injuries every year. Fortunately, injured parties can collect compensation from those responsible, which could include the manufacturer of the vehicle itself, a third party manufacturer, a shipping company, a distributor, or a retail seller. If able to demonstrate the negligence or recklessness of these parties, the victim may be able to collect compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage.
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