If you or a loved one has suffered an injury, you are fully aware of how devastating it can be. Injuries, even if relatively minor, can have a significant impact on your life. They can lead to doctors’ visits, days lost at work, and missed activities and events that you enjoy. If the injuries are severe, you may require physical and mental treatment for years to come. Injuries can lead to considerable hardship, lost income, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Sometimes, devastatingly, in the most traumatic cases, injuries can lead to a loved one’s death.
If you believe that the injury you or your loved one suffered was caused as a result of the negligence of another, you may be legally entitled to recover the costs you’ve incurred as a result of your injury. An award of money paid to you as compensation for your losses is known as “damages.” It is important in these types of cases to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury attorney can provide you with valuable advice, support, and legal guidance to ensure that you recover the damages that you are legally owed.
Injured in Atlanta? Here’s What to do Next
Injuries from accidents are common. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 30.8 million emergency department visits for accidents in 2015. The first thing you should do when injured in an accident, is to seek medical attention for your injuries right away and, if necessary, call 911. Sometimes, what may seem to be a minor injury, can actually be much worse. You should always seek the advice of a medical provider as soon as possible.
As soon as you are able, it is important to take the following steps after an accident:
- Document everything you can about the incident. Include the time and place of the injury and the names and contact information of any witnesses. Take photos of any injuries or property damage. The more information you can gather, the more helpful it will be for you and your attorney.
- Report the injury to the appropriate authorities or supervisor. Depending on the type and place of the accident, you may report the injury to the police or a store supervisor, for example. Request a copy of all reports.
- Contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case.
- Call your insurance company, if applicable, to notify them of the accident as soon as possible. However, do not provide the insurance company with any recorded statements and do not sign any documents or settlement offers until you first consult with an attorney.
Types of Injury Claims
The attorneys at Ghiaasiaan & Briceno have experience representing those that have been injured by the negligence of others in several types of cases including car accidents, slip-and-fall cases, and claims for wrongful death.
Car Accident Injuries
Georgia is an “at-fault” state. This means that if you are injured by another driver that was at fault in the accident, you will ultimately pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer, or file a lawsuit, in order to recover damages.
If you slip-and-fall while at another’s property or a place of business and the fall was due, in part, by unsafe conditions or the negligence of the property owner or manager, you may be entitled to damages for your injuries.
Wrongful Death Accidents
Accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. If a loved one dies as a result of injuries caused by the action or inactions of another, a wrongful death claim can be pursued in the state of Georgia by certain family members or, in some cases, the personal executor of the estate.
Georgia Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the time period within which you must bring a legal action. The statute of limitations may be different for different types of cases. For example, the statute of limitations may be different for a criminal offense than for a slip-and-fall case. The statute of limitations also varies from state to state. If you do not initiate legal action within the prescribed time period, you may be barred, or prohibited, from recovering any damages for your injuries.
Personal injury cases must be initiated within two years in the state of Georgia. The “clock” for these types of cases begins to run on the date of the accident or injury. If you are filing a claim for wrongful death in Georgia, the action must be initiated within two years from the date of death.
There are circumstances under which the statute of limitations may not start to run at the time stated in the statute or may be suspended for a time period, however. This is known as “tolling”. There are also instances where the time limit may be shorter than two years. For these reasons, it is very important to speak with an attorney to discuss the facts of your case. Only an attorney can advise as to the date by which a claim must be filed.
The Cost of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney in Atlanta
Many times, hiring a personal injury attorney will not cost you anything unless you win your case. Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means that your attorney will work on your case from the initial investigation through trial, if necessary, without accepting payment unless you ultimately have a successful outcome and damages are awarded.
In a case involving a contingency fee arrangement, if damages are awarded for your injuries, you will pay your attorney a pre-set percentage of the sum awarded for the legal services he or she provided. However, if your case is not resolved in your favor and no damages are awarded, no attorneys fees will be owed.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MIM)
Maximum medical improvement is a term used by personal injury attorneys to define the point at which a victim has medically recovered after an accident. It can also refer to an instance when the victim is medically stable enough to be able to determine medical needs for the future.
In many cases, filing a lawsuit or finalizing any type of settlement agreement, is not advisable until the victim reaches MMI. Simply put, once you agree to a settlement, your case is finished. If your injuries are more extensive or require more care than initially thought, you cannot then go back to the other party and request additional money. Each case is different, however, and settlement or litigation recommendations may depend on several factors. Your attorney will recommend settlement at a time and in an amount that is right for your individual case. If settlement is not in your best interest, your attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Georgia
Before filing a lawsuit, your attorney will investigate the facts of your case. This includes reviewing your medical records, any accident or incident reports including police reports, and any other documentation or photos that you may have. Your attorney will also interview witnesses and speak with others that may have knowledge about your case. Once your case is accepted, and if applicable, you’ve reached MMI, your attorney will begin settlement negotiations with the at-fault party, the at-fault party’s insurance company, or the opposing attorney.
Settlement discussions can begin with the preparation of a demand statement or letter. In the demand letter, you will demand settlement of your case and provide evidence of all costs incurred (and income lost) as a result of your injuries.
If you are not able to reach settlement after sending a demand letter, a lawsuit may be initiated with the filing of a Complaint. You are now the Plaintiff in the case and the “at-fault” party is the Defendant.The Complaint (and Summons) notify the Defendant that you have decided to sue for damages. After the Complaint is filed, the opposing party will respond with an Answer.
At this point, the parties will proceed to a process known as Discovery. During this phase of litigation, each side will request various forms of documentation from the other party. Discovery may include requests for medical records, photos, reports, and various other types of documentation pertinent to the case.
As the case progresses, Depositions may be taken. Depositions involve asking witnesses questions about their knowledge of the case, while present with the witness.
In an attempt to settle the case before trial, your case may be set for Mediation. Mediation is a forum where both sides attempt to reach a settlement agreement. It is important to have an experienced attorney to negotiate on your behalf at this stage in the process to attempt to avoid a more lengthy and costly trial.
Most cases will settle and it will not be necessary to try to the case. If your case still has not settled, however, at this time, your attorney will prepare your case for trial. It will then be the judge or jury that decide the outcome and what damages, if any, will be awarded.
Am I Entitled to Compensation?
If you or a loved one are injured as a result of another’s negligence, or failure to exercise reasonable care, you may be entitled to recover compensation, or damages, associated with your injury. The type (and amount) of compensation you may be awarded depends on several factors. Generally, in Georgia, you may be entitled to recover three types of damages:
Economic damages can include, for example, calculable expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage as a result of the accident.
Non-economic damages are those damages that you cannot quantify, but are very real. These types of damages include pain and suffering and mental distress.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant. These types of damages are usually awarded for willful, reckless, and wanton conduct. Punitive damages are less common in Georgia than economic and non-economic damages. However, a personal injury attorney, after review of the facts of the case, will be able to discuss with you whether you may be entitled to an award of punitive damages.
Although done in other states, Georgia does not cap compensatory damages. This means that there are no restrictions on the amounts awarded for economic or non-economic damages in a case. Georgia does cap punitive damage awards in certain situations, however.
Georgia’s Comparative Fault Law
Georgia is a “modified comparative fault” state. This means that if you are partly at fault for an accident, the court will determine what percentage of the accident was as a result of your negligence. In Georgia, you must be less than 50% at fault for your injuries in order to pursue a claim again the other party. Additionally, any damages awarded to you will be reduced by the amount you were determined to be negligent. This ensures that the “at-fault” party is only responsible for paying damages actually caused by that party.
Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?
Hiring an attorney is a personal decision and one that you alone can make. However, if you or a loved one are injured as a result of another’s negligence, hiring a personal injury attorney can provide you with the experience and legal knowledge necessary to help during this difficult time. You may be faced with ongoing medical bills and the inability to work or provide for your family. The situation may feel overwhelming. The attorneys at Ghiaasiaan & Briceno have valuable experience helping individuals and families in situations involving all types of accidents and injuries. Call the law office of Ghiaasiaan & Briceno to set up a consultation to speak with a qualified attorney and to discuss the unique facts of your case.