Stephen Hasner | Car Accidents | April 14, 2021
It is stressful to be involved in a traffic accident. Even if you are not injured, you likely will deal with a property damage claim for your vehicle. Most individuals recover from their injuries, repair their vehicles, and move on with their lives.
However, what happens if you are sued for a car accident? What should you do?
Notify Your Car Insurance Company Immediately
Georgia is an at-fault state for car accidents. If a driver causes a collision, that driver can be financially liable for the damages caused by the car wreck.
Therefore, all drivers are required to carry minimum amounts of liability car insurance coverage.
As a Georgia driver, you must purchase and maintain the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person with a maximum of $50,000 per accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability coverage
You have the option of purchasing higher car insurance limits, and it is wise to do so. If you cause a car accident, higher amounts of liability insurance can protect your personal assets if you are sued.
High-net-worth individuals may want to discuss umbrella insurance policies and other forms of liability insurance. These insurance policies can protect individuals if they cause a car accident that results in catastrophic injuries and damages.
Your Insurance Company Hires a Defense Attorney
Liability insurance compensates accident victims for their losses, damages, and injuries. Your insurance provider will actively negotiate a settlement with the accident victim. The victim may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit because your insurance company would not agree to settle the personal injury claim for their preferred amount.
Now that the lawsuit is filed, your insurance company will retain legal counsel to defend the lawsuit. The attorney contacts you to discuss the accident and gather evidence to defend the lawsuit. You should not talk to an attorney or other party representing the accident victim.
You have the right to hire an attorney of your choice at your expense. There could be cases in which this is beneficial for you. If you are concerned, you can talk to a car accident lawyer about your case to ensure you understand your legal rights and what you need to do to protect your best interests.
Depositions and Discovery
The attorney handling your case engages in discovery with the other party. Each of the parties may take depositions of witnesses and the opposing party.
They may file interrogatories, request to produce, and requests for admissions. All of these discovery tools are designed to learn more about the other party’s case and gather additional evidence.
Negotiations and Trial
There is nothing for you to do during this phase of the lawsuit unless your attorney advises you otherwise. After the discovery phase ends, your attorney may engage in negotiations with the other party. At this point in the lawsuit, the parties may settle the claim and end the lawsuit.
If your attorney cannot settle the lawsuit with the accident victim, the case proceeds to trial. At the trial, each party presents the evidence it has gathered to support its version of events. You may be required to testify at the trial.
There could be one or more defenses your attorney uses at trial. For example, the attorney may allege contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is a legal theory that reduces the victim’s damages by their fault for the accident. This defense is useful when the victim shares partial blame for the accident.
Who Pays the Award in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If the jury finds that you caused the accident and awards the victim compensation for damages, you are responsible for that amount. Your car insurance company indemnifies you up to your policy limits. In other words, the insurance provider pays the award up to the limits of your insurance policy.
For example, if you have minimum insurance coverage, your insurance company would pay up to $25,000 to the victim. Any amount of the jury verdict over $25,000 would be your responsibility to pay. Because car accident damages can total hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is wise to discuss policy limits with your insurance company.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Georgia?
An accident victim has two years after a motor vehicle accident to file a lawsuit in most cases. There are exceptions to that rule. The lawyer hired by the insurance company analyzes the statute of limitations and raises a defense if the victim failed to file the lawsuit before the deadline expired.
If you face a lawsuit for a car accident, act immediately to protect your interests. Notify your insurance provider and seek legal advice. A lawsuit is a dispute. It is not a judgment of guilt until a jury decides in favor of the plaintiff.