How Long Do I Have to Pursue My Personal Injury Claim?

There are important time limits to brining a lawsuit in Georgia that you should be aware of. Most people in a car, truck or motorcycle accident don't want to deal with arguing with an insurance company, let alone file a lawsuit. However, if you are in a serious accident and face mounting medical bills, lost wages or other expenses, you may be forced to do so at some point. Some accident victims will try to handle everything themselves, but then find themselves overwhelmed and decide to seek help. So, how long do you have to assert a claim and/or file a lawsuit?

First of all, you want to report any claim to an insurance company right away. That not only includes the wrong-doer's insurance company, but your insurance company as well. With respect to your insurance company, there is oftentimes a contractual duty to report an accident within thirty (30) days. Failure to do so could prejudice your rights to recover uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

So say you've reported you clain to an insurance company and you've been negotiating with them on your personal injuries. Months and/or years have gone by and you are just not getting the the fair recovery for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering that you feel you deserve. When should you be worried? For a typical car, truck, tractor-trailer or motorcycle accident, the time limit in which you have to file a claim is two (2) years from the date of injury or else your claim will be forever barred. Does that mean you should call a lawyer on the day before the statute of limitations runs? NO! You should give your attorney plenty of time to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare and file the lawsuit. Sometimes it can be hard to find the defendant, and it is best to file a personal injury lawsuit months in advance of the expiration of the statute of limitations to make sure you have the proper person or entity named as a defendant.

While it is best to contact an attorney as soon as practicable after an accident, you can still contact one even if some months have passed and still recover. Please be advised that the two (2) year statute of limitation does not apply to all lawsuits. The time may be shorter (!!!) or longer depending of the type of case and if certain special circumstances exist. Please contact an attorney today to find out your specific statute of limitation if you have any questions. The above is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Kenneth Crawford is a personal injury attorney practicing in Douglasville, Villa Rica, Carrollton Hiram, West Cobb and Marietta. He handles car accidents, truck wrecks, tractor-trailer accidents, dog bites, products liability and other personal injury cases. Call for a free consultation today!

Drunk Drivers and Car and Truck Accidents in Douglasville and Douglas County

According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, each year there are about 300 traffic fatalities in Georgia and 10,000 traffic fatalities nationwide from alcohol-impaired or drunk drivers. In addition, according to the 2014 Georgia County Guide published by the University of Georgia, Douglasville and Douglas County average about 5 fatalities caused by drunk drivers per 100,000 population.  That is well over the Georgia average of 3 fatalities caused by drunk drivers per 100,000 population.  Drunk driving is certainly a problem in West Georgia.

In Georgia, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08% for drivers over 21.  For drivers 21 or below, the limit is 0.02%.  For commercial drivers (heavy trucks and tractor trailers) the limit is 0.02% BAC.  At these levels and higher, the driver is deemed to be an impaired and dangerous driver.  This is borne out by the severity of drunk driver related crashes and wrecks. Unfortunately, these accidents often lead to serious injuries, high medical bills and deaths. 

There are certainly criminal penalties for drunk drivers.  But Georgia law also allows you to punish a drunk driver in conjunction with recovering your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering in a civil law suit.  In drunk driver cases in Douglasville and Douglas County, you can also recover punitive or exemplary damages.  You can recover punitive damages if you prove by "clear and convincing evidence that the defendant´s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences."  Georgia law allows these damages as a way to punish and deter drunk drivers.  The damages can often be substantial, because Douglasville juries are fed up with drunk drivers!  

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, it is advisable to hire an attorney. Preservation of key evidence is often critical, and steps must be taken to establish chain of custody of the alcohol testing the driver was subjected to.  Call Kenneth B. Crawford for a free consultation today to see if your claim qualifies for punitive damages.  Hopefully we can one day eradicate the scourge of drunk and impaired driving from Douglasville, Douglas County and West Georgia.  

... So you had a car accident and were injured...

Once you get over the initial shock and medical treatment, your thoughts begin to turn to what's next?  How does this work exactly?  First and foremost, make sure you get the medical treatment you need.  Follow your doctor's instructions.  After that, you or a friend or loved one should help you take the initial steps.  You should take pictures of any bruising or injuries.  You should take pictures of any property damage to you car or truck.  Later, when an insurance company or a defense lawyer tries to downplay the severity of the accident you were in, you can whip out your pictures and say, "not so fast, my friend!"  A picture is truly worth a thousand words.  

Additionally, you should notify your (yes your) automobile insurance company.  "But I wasn't at fault!" you say.  The reason you want to do this is to make sure you trigger uninsured motorist coverage (a/k/a underinsured motorist coverage) if you need it.  Your policy will likely have contractual provisions that require you to notify them within thirty (30) days of the accident.  If it has been more than thirty days, don't stress, just notify them as soon as possible. But won't this raise my rates?  No.  You weren't at fault, and additionally, who cares? If they do that, you switch to any number of other insurers willing to take your premiums. You paid for your insurance for this specific occurrence, and now you need it.  You shouldn't feel guilty about using it.  

Once the insurance companies are notified, you may get a call from an insurance adjuster. Warning!  They may want to take your recorded statement, and you need to be very careful what you say.  They may try to get you to downplay your injuries or attempt to get you to admit that you were at fault or partially at fault for the accident.  Having a lawyer present during the recorded statement will insure that your rights are protected and you don't answer any unfair questions. 

At any stage of the above, you may want to seek help from a personal injury attorney. We can help you with making sure you collect and preserve evidence, notify all the insurance companies who may have coverage for the accident, and sit with you during the telephonic recorded statement (if we agree that you should do one).  In addition, all of this can be done at no cost to you!  We handle claims like these on a contingency fee basis, so there is no charge to you unless we recover from the insurance companies.  

Call Kenneth B. Crawford for a free consultation today!  The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an attorney-client relationship.  Legal advice needs to be tailored to your specific factual situation.  

 

Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney for My Car Wreck?

Written by Kenneth B. Crawford

Out of nowhere, it happens.  You have a terrifying accident where you are thrown around in your car and injured.  In the moments following a car accident, the primary concern is for your physical wellbeing.  You may be taken the hospital via ambulance.  There’s a bill.  In the emergency room, you fill out paperwork.  You are seen by nurses and doctors.  There’s another bill.  You are x-rayed or have an MRI.  Behind the scenes, this is reviewed by a radiologist and given to the doctor.  If the radiologists are separate from the hospital, there’s another bill for that.  If you have surgery, you are given anesthesia under the supervision of an anesthesiologist.  Another bill.   

If you have health insurance, some of these medical providers will submit the bill to your health insurers.  The hospital may refrain from doing so, instead opting to file a hospital lien.  After you are released from the hospital, you may have follow up visits with an orthopedist or have physical therapy or chiropractor visits.  More bills.

Sometime following the accident, hopefully immediately, you report the accident to your automobile insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  The adjuster calls or writes and gives you the claim number.  They may want to take your recorded statement, and they may want you to sign a HIPAA medical authorization form so they can get your medical records and talk to you.  Also, you may be getting numerous Explanation of Benefits or EOBs from your health insurance company.  If you have Medicare or Medicaid, you may be getting statements from them.  Or, if you don’t have any insurance, you may be getting collection letters and bills from the doctors. 

At some point, all of this may start to pile up for you.  You may ask yourself:  What are my rights?  What should I be doing to make sure I’m fairly compensated by the auto insurance companies?  Surely these insurance companies will do the right thing.  They have my best interest at heart, right?  Right?

Wrong.  Automobile insurance companies make money by taking premiums for covering certain potential losses.  Whether or not you have a claim (accident) is just a numbers game.  On any given day, a certain number of people will have accidents and get injured.  Insurance companies can use statistics and other math to estimate how frequently that will happen.  They have no control over that.  The only thing they have control over is how much they pay out on those claims that occur.  Insurance companies exist to make profits, and they make profit by paying out the least possible amount they can on a claim.  The less money you get, the more money they make.  In addition, virtually all health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid require that you reimburse them out of your recovery.  Hospitals take advantage of a loophole to submit you the full amount of the bill by filing a hospital lien rather than submit its bill to your health insurer.  The hospitals and medical doctors are looking out for your physical well-being, but no one is looking out for your financial well-being.  You need help navigating through the myriad laws and regulations.  You need someone on your team who knows what auto insurance companies, health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid can and cannot do. You need someone who can tell you what is fair, and to make sure you get that fair compensation.  In addition, a personal injury attorney can handle this for you on a contingent fee basis, which means he is compensated out of the insurance recovery.  There is no cost to you if there is no collection.  And also, more importantly, your interests are aligned. The more money your attorney gets for you, the more money he earns.  You need to carefully select your attorney, the same way you need to carefully select your doctor, but a good attorney can guide you through this trying time and make sure that you are treated fairly. Contact Kenneth B. Crawford for a free consultation today.

Bob Kauffman Installed as Treasurer of State Bar of Georgia

State Bar of Georgia, July 1, 2013: Hilton Head Island, S.C. – Robert J. “Bob” Kauffman of Hartley, Rowe & Fowler in Douglasville was installed as treasurer of the 45,000-member State Bar of Georgia on June 22 during the organization’s Annual Meeting.

Kauffman, who served as secretary of the State Bar for the past year, previously served as the elected representative of the Douglas Judicial Circuit on the State Bar Board of Governors and has served as a member of the Bar’s Executive Committee, chair of the Bar’s Cornerstones of Freedom/Communications Committee, and as a member of the Advisory Committee on Legislation. He is also a Fellow of the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia and a past president of the Douglas County Bar Association.

His law practice is concentrated in the areas of commercial real estate transactions, real estate finance and estate planning. Kauffman is a graduate of Western Illinois University and the Walter F. George Law School at Mercer University. He was admitted to the Bar in 1988.

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