Accidents are often traumatic and shocking experiences. It is easy to make a decision that can reduce your chances of recovering medical expenses, lost wages, and the costs for repairing or replacing your vehicle. Here are ten things that you should remember if you are ever in an accident in Georgia.
1. Make sure that a police report is created. In Georgia, the law states that you must report an accident as quickly as possible if there is any death, injury, or if it involves apparent property damage of $500 (O.C.G.A. 40-6-273). A police report helps document who may be at fault, any traffic laws that were broken, and identifying information about the other driver.
2. Do not leave the scene of the accident. In Georgia, you must stop immediately if you are involved in an accident. If you are asked, you also must give your name, address, and your vehicle's registration, as well as show your driver's license, to the other driver. Finally, if the other driver or their passenger is injured, Georgia law states that you must give them “reasonable assistance” but often just making sure that an ambulance is called or they get to a hospital if they need one is sufficient. If you do leave the scene of an accident, you can be charged with a hit and run, which can either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270).
3. Move your car if there aren't any serious injuries. Leaving vehicles in the roadway where the collision occurred can put you and the other driver in danger of being involved in another accident. Don't worry about being blamed for the accident if you move you vehicle: you can't be considered “liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident” just because you do the safe thing. (O.C.G.A. 40-6-275)
4. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. While the other driver may promise to pay for any damage they have caused, informal arrangements can easily lead to you having to pay out of pocket because of someone else's bad driving. Additionally, an insurance policy is a contract and you are often are in breach of that contract by not reporting an accident your insurance company in a timely manner.
5. Take lots of photographs. Before cell phones with cameras were so common, some people kept disposable cameras in their glove boxes. The important thing at the scene of the accident is to make sure there is documentation of the damage caused by the collision, as repairs can quickly make a badly damaged car look brand new. Once you have sought any urgent medical treatment that may be required, make sure you photograph any injuries as well. Insurance companies often try to minimize the extent of injuries and photographs speak louder than words for an adjuster or jury.
6. Be careful what you tell others about the accident. Be careful of what you tell people as well as what you share about the accident on social media. Insurance companies will investigate to find any way that they think may allow them to minimize the costs they have to pay for your losses. Things you tell others may hurt your chances for recovery.
7. Document everything related to the accident. Make sure you take notes about who you talked to at the insurance companies and when you talked to them. Also write down information about medical treatment and keep any copies of any bills or statements. Keeping a diary or notebook is often helpful, especially if you have to seek legal counsel or the insurance company decides they don't believe the extent of the property damage or that you were injured from the accident. Also, write down any days you missed from work, even if they are half days, due to medical treatment, injuries, or not having a vehicle to drive. Many details may not seem important at first but can be very important when it comes to making sure you recover for all your losses.
8. Seek medical treatment if necessary. Many people worry about getting in debt because of medical bills and don't get the treatment to help their injuries heal. Also, sometimes injuries aren't noticed until the adrenaline caused by the accident wears off. Remember, if you do not get the treatment you need when you need it, it may be harder to get reimbursed for the treatment later. Your injuries can also become more serious medical conditions the longer you go without treatment. To protect yourself both physically and financially, seek medical treatment if you are injured.
9. Your do not necessarily have to give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company. You have to cooperate with your own insurance company but you do not have the same obligation with the other driver's insurance company. Before you agree to giving any recorded interview, get legal advice. Insurance adjusters know how to ask leading questions and you is is easy to say something that can hurt your chances of recovery.
10. Get organized – keep everything related to the accident. Get the accident report as soon as possible. Medical facilities sometimes give patients their records for free and having these can help you when you are determining the extent of your injuries. Making sure your medical bills get paid is one of the most important things to do for yourself and your family after an accident. Keep all work excuses, medical records, and other documentation as you will likely need these documents at some point in your claim.
While following these ten steps can be helpful to protect yourself if you have an accident in Georgia, there are often complicated issues to consider that only an attorney may be aware of. If you have been in an accident, call us for a free consultation to make sure you aren't making a mistake that could leave you with medical bills, injuries, and property damage that won't be paid for.