When you report a car accident to an insurance company, it is assigned to a claims adjuster. The adjuster will investigate the accident and decide who is at fault. The adjuster may also look at your medical bills and the damage to your car. If you are not more than 50% at fault, the insurance company will offer you money for your injuries and vehicle damage.
The money the insurance company offers you is not a “take it or leave it” deal. You can negotiate if you feel the offer is not fair. It is always a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident, and before you talk to the insurance company.
How should I report the accident?
Always report any accident involving a vehicle to your own car insurance company. This is true even if you were injured while walking or biking. Depending on the circumstances, you may also want to report the accident to the other driver’s insurance company.
Your insurance company will ask you some basic questions about the accident and will assign your claim to an adjuster. The other driver’s insurance company will also put an adjuster on the case. Under Georgia law, you are required to give your own insurance company information about your accident. But you are NOT required to provide detailed information to the other driver’s insurance company.
The other driver’s insurance company will probably call you and ask you to give a recorded statement. Anything you say—including innocent remarks like “I’m sorry this happened” or “I’m feeling better today” can be used against you. NEVER give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance until you have talked to a personal injury lawyer.
Whose insurance company will pay me?
It depends. You may have heard of “no fault” insurance, but Georgia is a “fault” state. This means that the insurance company for the driver who is at fault in the accident must pay for everyone’s injuries and vehicle damage.
If another driver is at fault and has insurance coverage, the other drivers’ insurance company will pay you. If the other driver doesn’t have insurance (or doesn’t have enough insurance), your injuries and vehicle damage may be covered under your own insurance policy.
How do insurance companies decide who is at fault?
They review the evidence in your case, including the police report, the damage to the vehicles, and the statements made by the drivers and witnesses involved. No insurance company wants to pay out a big personal injury claim, so they may argue among themselves about who is at fault.
Sometimes, more than one driver is at fault. When this happens, the insurance company assigns a percentage of fault to each driver. If you have 50% or more of the fault, you cannot recover any money from the other driver. If you are less than 50% at fault, your financial recovery will be reduced because you are partly to blame. If the insurance company tells you that you are partly at fault, talk to a lawyer before you accept this decision.
When will I get a settlement offer?
It depends. Most car accident cases are resolved within a few weeks. But for more serious and complicated accidents, it can take several months.
When you do get a settlement offer, be aware that it comes with strings attached. If you take the money, the insurance company will require you to sign a release, agreeing that they will not pay you any more money. If you take insurance money right away, before you really know how badly you are hurt or what kind of treatment you need, you could be cheating yourself out of money that you will truly need in the future.
Always talk to a car accident attorney in Atlanta Georgia before you accept any insurance money, sign paperwork, or give a recorded statement. An attorney can help you present a strong case that may get you substantially more than that first insurance offer.
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