Frequently Asked Questions

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What should I do after a car crash?

Being in a wreck is frightening, painful, and disorienting. Most people have trouble thinking clearly and protecting their own interests in the immediate aftermath of a car wreck. If you have been seriously injured, even your life may be in someone else's hands. I work with these cases for a living, and when I got rear-ended not too long ago I was fascinated by my own reaction -- my heart raced and I felt the confusion and emotions my clients feel when they have been hit. Fortunately, I knew what to do, and you can too.

  • Stay calm. Take a deep breath. Everything that comes after the wreck will go better if you keep your cool. Be polite.
  • Call for help. Call 911 and report the crash. If you have been injured, ask for an ambulance. The most important thing is for you to take care of your health and get treatment for your injuries -- everything else can be taken care of later. Having the police document the crash will also help for insurance purposes and will help you prove liability if you end up making a claim.
  • Do not apologize or admit fault. You probably have good manners and are inclined to say nice things in stressful situations to make other people feel better. Resist the urge to apologize or accept any blame for whatever happened. Absolutely help and comfort those who are injured, if you are able to, but don't say things that can be used against you down the road. Things often look clearer with a little distance and some time to collect the facts than they do in the immediate aftermath of a crash. You may even think you contributed to the crash when in fact you did nothing wrong at all. Better to save that discussion for another time.
  • Take pictures. If you have a camera (and with modern phones, who doesn't have a camera?) and it is safe to do so, take pictures of the scene, the surrounding area, the witnesses, the other driver, any passengers, and all vehicles involved. These pictures can be crucial evidence both of how the wreck occurred, which goes to the other driver's liability, and the severity of the crash. If you cannot take pictures yourself, ask somebody else to take pictures for you.
  • Identify witnesses. On the scene is your best chance to get the names and phone numbers of the people who witnessed the incident. After everybody walks away it can be a lot harder to find people who can, and are willing to, corroborate your account of what happened. Get names, phone numbers, email addresses, and any other contact information you can from any bystanders. Even those who did not see the wreck may overhear something that will later help your case.

If you are injured in the wreck, it is also a good idea to start a journal documenting the pain and limitations you experience. Unfortunately, physically recovering from car wreck injuries can be a long ordeal, and if the responsible party refuses to compensate you willingly (as is too often the case) the legal recovery can take a long time too. A journal can be very valuable if, years after the fact, you need to remember how you felt or what effect the injuries had on your life during your recovery.

If you have more specific questions about what to do in your case, please give us a call or schedule an appointment.

How much is my personal injury case worth?

Get ready for a disappointing answer: It depends.

So many factors go into determining the value of a personal injury claim that it is impossible to reduce such a case to a number. Factors such as the mechanism, nature, and severity of the injury; the evidence available to prove the injury; the age, occupation, family status, and other characteristics of the injured person; the identity of the defendant; the county or venue in which a claim would have to be litigated; the amount of insurance or other assets available to pay a claim; and more. Ultimately -- and I understand this may sound blunt -- the value of a personal injury case is as much or as little as you can persuade a jury to award you (and then collect) or an opponent to settle with you for. Here are a couple of examples of how these factors affect your case:

  • Age of the injured person. Medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering are all recoverable in a personal injury claim or lawsuit, and that recovery should include both past damages and future damages. In the context of a permanent injury, all else being equal a younger person is going to have more future damages than an older person. Juries can be especially sympathetic to injured children, and jury sympathy has, rightly or wrongly, a significant influence on the value of a case.
  • Venue. Culture varies from country to country, sure, but also from region to region, state to state, county to county, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. The jury pools in different counties have different cultures, view personal injury litigation differently, and exhibit persistent differences in how they rule in these sorts of cases. Bringing your case in a "good" venue can dramatically improve its value over bringing that same case in a "bad" venue.
  • Evidence of an injury. Some injuries are hard to see, but others are easily visible. Whether or not you have pictures of your visible injuries can have a significant effect on your case's credibility and the willingness a jury has to make sure you are compensated for your injuries.
  • The defendant. An injury that might entitle you to significant compensation can become valueless if your claim is against an uninsured, unemployed defendant with no assets. Additionally, if the defendant is an overseas corporation that is hard to reach, or a government entity protected by sovereign immunity, a claim that could otherwise be very valuable may have its value significantly or completely reduced.

While we avoid taking guesses at the value of a case, we can tell you what you can do to preserve or maximize your case's value. If you have been injured and are considering pursuing a claim against the person who injured you, call us for a free case evaluation.

What is a tort?

Most civil (as opposed to criminal) lawsuits where one party is seeking a monetary judgment against the other party arise from either tort claims or contract claims. While breach of contract is the violation of some obligation created by a contract between the two parties, a tort is a wrongful act that violates another person's legal rights and causes injury.

The most common example of a tort is negligence, where a person causes injury by failing in some duty owed to somebody else. This is the tort most often involved in car wrecks, medical malpractice claims, and premises liability cases. Other torts include fraud, defamation, false imprisonment, assault and/or battery, and conversion (the civil version of theft of property).

What is negligence?

We all understand the concept of duty. Parents have duties toward their children, children toward their parents, husbands and wives have duties toward each other, and anytime you take a job you agree to undertake certain duties. While some duties are prominent and obvious, others sit in the background, almost invisible.

For example, everybody has a duty not to steal, and owes that duty to everybody else. Every driver on the road owes every other user of the road the duty of paying attention to his driving, keeping his car under control, and not running into anyone. Surgeons (and lawyers) owe it to their patients (and clients) to perform their work with the degree of skill to be expected of a person in that profession. Generally, we all owe it to each other to behave reasonably.

Negligence is a failure to perform such a duty in a way that hurts somebody else. When a driver fails to pay attention to the road, runs a red light, and t-bones an oncoming car, that driver has been negligent. When a surgeon amputates the wrong limb, or loses track of a surgical instrument and leaves it inside a patient, that surgeon has been negligent. An attorney who takes on representation of a client and then unreasonably fails to file the client's lawsuit within the time allowed by law has been negligent.

Negligence can exist wherever one person owes a duty to another, fails to live up to that duty, and causes harm.

What is a slip and fall case?

"Slip and fall" is the shorthand name given to a class of cases within the area of premises liability. Premises liability refers to the liability that arises from owning or occupying land.

Georgia law states that the owner of land or the occupier of premises has certain duties toward users of that land or those premises. Examples of these duties include the duty of a shop owner to keep the floors free of unexpected obstacles or slippery substances, the duty of a landlord to keep the stairs at an apartment complex in good repair or to provide adequate security, or the duty of the owner of a restaurant to keep the restaurant's leased parking lot free of potholes.

The terms "slip and fall" or "trip and fall" came into use because so many of the injuries arising from neglect of these duties are caused by people slipping in puddles, tripping in holes or over obstacles, and falling. Cases concerning the same kind of duty can feature other mechanisms of injury, though, such as a railing or structure collapse, the sting or bite from a venomous animal, fire caused by faulty wiring or allowed to spread by a malfunctioning sprinkler, or an object falling from a tall shelf in a store.

What all these cases have in common is the failure of the owner or occupier of land to meet his duty to prevent injury to users of that land -- whether customers, tenants, employees, or social guests. A "slip and fall" may sound minor, but the injuries that arise from these cases can be serious. If you have been injured like this, give us a call.

How long will my personal injury case take?

Lawsuits are by their nature adversarial, which means that there is always another side. Because it takes two to tango, it is very difficult to say how long a case will take. If you have a strong claim, the other side recognizes it, and the two sides can agree on a quick resolution, your case may not take much time at all. If the other side wants to dig in their heels and drag things out as long as possible, things can take a very long time.

That said, in a personal injury case that settles without litigation, you can typically count on wrapping things up within six months of your finishing medical treatment. If the case goes into litigation, even a straightforward lawsuit generally takes 18-24 months to resolve, either through negotiation, mediation, or trial. Unfortunately, until a case is resolved you can't know what it is going to take to resolve it. A case that seems like it should settle can sometimes require litigation all the way through trial, and instead of taking a few months end up taking a few years. Complex litigation, or cases that take detours through the appellate courts, can take even longer. It is not unheard of for a case to take five years to get to trial, or even more.

Fortunately, we do everything we can to prepare your case thoroughly from the beginning, and press things forward as quickly as we can to get you a quick resolution. In the civil justice system some things our out of our hands, but we do our absolute best to move quickly on those things we can control.

How much does an injury lawyer cost?

We handle every injury case for a fee that is contingent on our winning your case. Our fee is a percentage of whatever amount we are able to recover for you. This value-based system guarantees that you only pay for success and can pursue your claims without having to risk a lot of money to pay for a lawyer.

Bar rules governing contingent fees require that the client remain responsible for all costs incurred, and that only the attorney fees be contingent on the outcome of the case. However, those costs would generally be the same whether you hired an attorney or not.

In the end, an attorney can save you a great deal of time and stress while adding tremendous value to your case, all without costing you anything unless and until you collect on your claim. The contingent fee is the ultimate guarantee of your satisfaction, as the attorney gets paid only if you win your case.

When should I file my lawsuit?

Georgia law creates a variety of deadlines affecting your right to bring a lawsuit, and the facts of your case create other factors you need to keep in mind. Here are a few considerations:

  • Statutes of limitation. Once a claim arises (in a personal injury case, usually the moment you are injured) a limitation period starts to run. Once that limitation period expires, your right to file a lawsuit is extinguished. A bodily injury claim is subject to a two-year limitation period in Georgia, but various factors can change the duration of that period, either shortening it or lengthening it. For example, if the victim of an injury is under the age of 18, the victim's right to sue does not start to run until he or she turns 18. Also, if the perpetrator of a crime (including a traffic violation) causes an injury, the limitation period on claims by persons injured in that crime does not start to run until the criminal charges are disposed of, whether by guilty plea, dismissal, or trial. On the other hand, under certain circumstances you can shorten the applicable limitation period by contract. Missing a statute of limitation deadline completely bars your case from going forward, so make sure that you know what deadlines apply to your case and that you meet them.
  • Statutes of repose. Like a statute of limitation, a statute of repose sets a maximum time for a claim to be brought, but its clock starts running from an event other than when your claim arose. For example, in a defective product case, the statute of repose in Georgia runs ten years from the date the product was first purchased. If you are injured by that product nine years and six months after it was first purchased, even though the bodily injury limitation period is two years you will only have six months to file a lawsuit. Negligent construction, medical malpractice, and other types of claims have their own statutes of repose that need to be taken into account.
  • Notice requirements. Sometimes, the identity of the defendant creates deadlines. If you need to sue the government -- if, for example, you were injured in a car wreck caused by a county vehicle -- there are ante litem (pre-litigation) notice requirements, which create deadlines for you to notify the relevant government body after a claim arises. Sometimes these deadlines are as short as six months after your claim arises. Failure to give the required notice can prevent you from bringing a claim, so while these deadlines pertain to notice and not the filing of a lawsuit, missing one is just as damaging as missing a statute of limitation deadline.
  • Availability of evidence. Sometimes you should put a case into suit sooner so you have access to the discovery process to collect and preserve evidence. Over time, evidence disappears, memories fade, and people move on or pass away. If the evidence in your case is fragile, that might suggest bringing suit sooner rather than later.
  • Your medical treatment. Because so much of your claim consists of your medical bills and your physical injuries, knowing what those bills are and what the extent of your injuries is (and what future physical limitations you might face) is critical to evaluating your claim. If possible, you should wait until you are finished treating for your injuries before bringing a lawsuit.

These are just examples of the factors that determine when you should file your lawsuit. Generally, we recommend filing your lawsuit sooner rather than later, because lawsuits take time and typically they don't get better with age. For personal information that specifically addresses the circumstances of your case, give us a call.

What is a lawsuit?

Back in the olden days, if two people had a dispute they would settle it in any number of ways, many of which involved fighting. Those that didn't usually amounted to what we call "self help," such as breaking into another person's home to take back money or property that belonged to you. Generally, such self-help and "trial by combat" approaches to settling disputes are now illegal. In their place, what we have is a civil justice system centered around our courts.

A lawsuit is, put simply, a claim made within the civil justice system asserting some kind of right and asking for some kind of relief. The rights involved generally arise from one of two sources: A contract (and the breach of that contract) or a tort. A tort is a civil wrong similar to a crime, but where a crime is treated as an offense against society as a whole and subjects the perpetrator to criminal penalties such as fines and jail time, a tort is an offense against an individual and gives rise to a claim for damages by that individual.

Commencing a lawsuit typically involves filing papers, in the appropriate form, with the appropriate court, along with any required fees, and then having those papers served on the opposing party, called the defendant. A lot of rules apply to both of these processes, and those rules are beyond the scope of this FAQ, but you need to be aware of them. Some rules create prerequisites to filing, which you have to meet before you are allowed to bring a claim; others prescribe the place where the suit must be filed, information your complaint has to contain, and deadlines that apply to bringing different types of lawsuits.

If you have more questions or are considering filing a lawsuit (or somebody has filed one against you), please seek out an attorney who understands the rules and can explain how they apply to your case. We would be happy to talk with you, so feel free to give us a call or set up an appointment.

What is negligence?

We all understand the concept of duty. Parents have duties toward their children, children toward their parents, husbands and wives have duties toward each other, and anytime you take a job you agree to undertake certain duties. While some duties are prominent and obvious, others sit in the background, almost invisible.

For example, everybody has a duty not to steal, and owes that duty to everybody else. Every driver on the road owes every other user of the road the duty of paying attention to his driving, keeping his car under control, and not running into anyone. Surgeons (and lawyers) owe it to their patients (and clients) to perform their work with the degree of skill to be expected of a person in that profession. Generally, we all owe it to each other to behave reasonably.

Negligence is a failure to perform such a duty in a way that hurts somebody else. When a driver fails to pay attention to the road, runs a red light, and t-bones an oncoming car, that driver has been negligent. When a surgeon amputates the wrong limb, or loses track of a surgical instrument and leaves it inside a patient, that surgeon has been negligent. An attorney who takes on representation of a client and then unreasonably fails to file the client's lawsuit within the time allowed by law has been negligent.

Negligence can exist wherever one person owes a duty to another, fails to live up to that duty, and causes harm.

When should I file my lawsuit?

Georgia law creates a variety of deadlines affecting your right to bring a lawsuit, and the facts of your case create other factors you need to keep in mind. Here are a few considerations:

  • Statutes of limitation. Once a claim arises (in a personal injury case, usually the moment you are injured) a limitation period starts to run. Once that limitation period expires, your right to file a lawsuit is extinguished. A bodily injury claim is subject to a two-year limitation period in Georgia, but various factors can change the duration of that period, either shortening it or lengthening it. For example, if the victim of an injury is under the age of 18, the victim's right to sue does not start to run until he or she turns 18. Also, if the perpetrator of a crime (including a traffic violation) causes an injury, the limitation period on claims by persons injured in that crime does not start to run until the criminal charges are disposed of, whether by guilty plea, dismissal, or trial. On the other hand, under certain circumstances you can shorten the applicable limitation period by contract. Missing a statute of limitation deadline completely bars your case from going forward, so make sure that you know what deadlines apply to your case and that you meet them.
  • Statutes of repose. Like a statute of limitation, a statute of repose sets a maximum time for a claim to be brought, but its clock starts running from an event other than when your claim arose. For example, in a defective product case, the statute of repose in Georgia runs ten years from the date the product was first purchased. If you are injured by that product nine years and six months after it was first purchased, even though the bodily injury limitation period is two years you will only have six months to file a lawsuit. Negligent construction, medical malpractice, and other types of claims have their own statutes of repose that need to be taken into account.
  • Notice requirements. Sometimes, the identity of the defendant creates deadlines. If you need to sue the government -- if, for example, you were injured in a car wreck caused by a county vehicle -- there are ante litem (pre-litigation) notice requirements, which create deadlines for you to notify the relevant government body after a claim arises. Sometimes these deadlines are as short as six months after your claim arises. Failure to give the required notice can prevent you from bringing a claim, so while these deadlines pertain to notice and not the filing of a lawsuit, missing one is just as damaging as missing a statute of limitation deadline.
  • Availability of evidence. Sometimes you should put a case into suit sooner so you have access to the discovery process to collect and preserve evidence. Over time, evidence disappears, memories fade, and people move on or pass away. If the evidence in your case is fragile, that might suggest bringing suit sooner rather than later.
  • Your medical treatment. Because so much of your claim consists of your medical bills and your physical injuries, knowing what those bills are and what the extent of your injuries is (and what future physical limitations you might face) is critical to evaluating your claim. If possible, you should wait until you are finished treating for your injuries before bringing a lawsuit.

These are just examples of the factors that determine when you should file your lawsuit. Generally, we recommend filing your lawsuit sooner rather than later, because lawsuits take time and typically they don't get better with age. For personal information that specifically addresses the circumstances of your case, give us a call.

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