You won’t see my face on billboards or TV commercials (you’re welcome). I pride myself on providing my clients and people who have been injured in accidents with real information that will actually help them through a stressful period in their lives. I provide this information regardless of whether we ever meet for a free consultation. In keeping with that goal, I want to make sure you are also aware of a few key important points so that your rights are protected after a crash.
1. You Do NOT Have to Provide the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company With a Recorded Statement
After a car accident, the negligent driver’s insurance company will call you and sometimes even send an investigator to your home to try and convince you to provide a recorded or written statement. They’ll do everything they can to persuade you that making a statement is a good idea, that it will help speed things along, and it’s just a part of the normal process. This is not the case, and it is one of several mistakes people make after a car accident in Georgia.
The real reason they want you to give a recorded statement is to try to minimize the degree of your injury, and to cast doubt on the true cause of the accident or to acquire information to try to impart a degree of negligence to you so that they can later argue that you were at fault. Right after a car accident, the insurance company will try to make you think they’re on your side, trying to get the information necessary to pay you a fair sum for your accident. What they’re really trying to do is gain a strategic advantage that they will later use to either deny you compensation or greatly reduce the value of your claim.
One of the advantages of having a car accident attorney is that the other insurance company is not allowed to contact you and will have to contact your attorney.
2. You Do NOT Have to Sign a Medical Release
After a Georgia car accident, the insurance adjuster will also try to persuade you to sign a HIPAA release to get all of your medical records, not just your medical records related to your injuries from the car accident. The real purpose of this common practice is to go on a fishing expedition, to look back through your past medical records to find some remote record from years ago. And then they’ll use that remote record to attribute some degree of your injuries, pain, and suffering, to a past or preexisting condition in order to deny you compensation, or greatly diminish the value of your claim.
3. If You Have Health Insurance, All Medical Bills From Your Wreck Should Be Submitted to Your Insurer
I’m sure you remember filling out your intake paperwork when you were treated and having to answer a question related to whether or not your injuries were caused by an accident or the fault of another.
Hospitals and other medical groups in the Atlanta area frequently tell patients they cannot use health insurance to pay for treatment related to a car accident. This is simply untrue and frankly borders on illegality.
The reason they do this is simple, and as you might imagine, is all about money. If you have insurance, then a hospital or your medical group has entered into a contract with your insurer concerning the costs of treatment. Your contracted cost for a procedure through your insurance could be as much as five times less than what the hospital would charge a person without insurance. They will try to convince you that you cannot use your health insurance to pay for treatment related to a car accident so they can then charge the rate that is five times more than what you should be paying!
The hospital or medical group will then file a lien on your insurance claim thus guaranteeing that they get paid first, before you, from the proceeds of any settlement. If this is not handled properly, you could receive all the proceeds of your settlement and you walk away with nothing.
4. You Do NOT Always Need an Accident Attorney
Not every car crash requires a car accident attorney. In certain situations, hiring a car accident attorney could lead to receiving less money.
On the other hand, if you have sustained a significant injury, missed time from work, have concerns over the car wreck’s impact on your future health, are being mistreated by the insurance company, or have medical bills that are greater than the negligent driver’s insurance policy limits, then you really need to consult with a car accident attorney before entering into any negotiations or settlement. Remember, a consultation won’t cost you anything, but may result in a much greater settlement that fairly compensates you for your injuries.
5. The Negligent Driver’s Insurance Policy May Not Be Your Only Source of Recovery After a Car Wreck
This is extremely important. Many of the more serious and catastrophic injuries my firm has handles involve situations where the negligent driver only had what’s known as “minimum limits coverage.” That means the negligent driver is only carrying the minimum amount of coverage required by law, which in Georgia is $25,000.00.
What happens if your medical bills are $50,000.00 or $100,000.00?
First, we make sure there aren’t any other insurance policies applicable to the driver. For example, the driver may have been operating someone else’s car at the time of the collision, allowing us to recover the coverage on that vehicle, plus the negligent driver’s own car. Another example would be if the at-fault person was working when the wreck happened. In these situations, we may be able to recover not only from the driver but also from the business the driver was working for.
Second, we always check whether or not you have “uninsured or underinsured motorist” coverage on your own insurance policy. If you have this important coverage, and your damages exceed the policy limits of the negligent driver that caused your injuries, then an uninsured/underinsured claim may be necessary. Additionally, there are certain situations in Georgia where you can “stack” your underinsured policies following a car wreck.
Third, if the car accident was caused by a drunk driver, the facts may permit a claim against the restaurant or bar that overserved him. This is known as a Dram Shop action. There can also be a cause of action against a Social Host for situations where, for example, the host of a party can be liable for serving alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person who then causes injuries.
6. Personal Injury Settlements Are Tax-Free
Fortunately, monies recovered from personal injury settlements or jury awards are not taxable under Georgia state laws or federal tax laws. The notable exception is for punitive damages.
7. Personal Injury Settlements Should Cover All of Your Losses—Both Past and Future
People who have been involved in car wrecks often experience medical problems many years later. Any settlement or jury verdict must factor in not only the injuries, pain, and suffering you’ve already been through, but also what you're likely to endure in the future. For example, if after a car wreck you sustain a cervical spine injury. The doctor tells you that you will likely require surgery to address the issue at some time in the future. However, because it’s surgery on your cervical spine, you or the physician want to wait to determine whether the surgery is absolutely necessary. If you don’t factor the cost of that future surgery into your damages when you settle the case, you can’t go back at a later time to request compensation for that surgery and you will be left to pay for it on your own. We work with a number of experts in this area to help make sure clients are fully compensated for anticipated future hardships.If you have more questions or would like more guidance, call me today at (770) 727-2868 or complete my contact form.