Basics of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you got hurt because of someone’s carelessness, an Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help you go after the compensation you deserve. You do not have to fight the insurance company on your own.

Establishing Liability

Most personal injury cases have their basis in the legal theory of negligence. To win a negligence case, we have to prove these factors:

1. The person who hurt you had a legal duty toward you. Let’s say that you got injured in a car accident. The at-fault driver owed you a legal duty of care because Georgia law states that everyone who operates a motor vehicle has to drive carefully and obey the rules of the road so that they do not harm others.

2. The defendant (person responsible for your injuries) breached his duty of care. If the defendant did nothing wrong, he will not be accountable for your losses. If he failed to live up to his legal duty of care, it is negligence.

3. The negligence must be the thing that caused your injuries. Let’s suppose the negligent party was texting while driving. He did not see you stopped in front of him and plowed into your car. His negligent act caused your injuries.

4. You must have suffered physical, financial, or emotional harm because of the accident and injury.

The Timeline of a Personal Injury Case

The exact steps we take in handling your case will vary depending on the unique facts of your situation, but here are some of the typical phases of a personal injury case.

Preliminary Stage

These are some of the steps we often take early in the process:

  • We talk with you and ask you a lot of questions about what happened and how your injuries have affected your life.
  • We investigate the accident to confirm who and what caused the incident.
  • We collect the documents to prove your case and establish the amount of your damages.

Going After Damages

Once we have the information we gathered in the preliminary stage, we calculate a fair range for settlement of your claim. We talk with you, explain the numbers, and answer your questions. When you authorize the range of settlement amounts, we draft a demand letter and send it to the negligent party’s insurance company.

In the demand letter, we tell the insurer why their insured is liable and how much money they should pay for your losses. We inform the carrier about the medical treatment you had to undergo to treat your injuries, and the impact the harm you suffered has had on your life and your ability to make a living.

The insurer might respond to our demand letter with a counter-offer. We will negotiate directly with the insurance company to try to get you all the compensation you deserve. Although most Georgia personal injury claims settle without having to go to trial, we can and will file a personal injury lawsuit if we need to.

Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Most personal injury lawsuits have a statute of limitations (i.e., deadline for filing a lawsuit) of two years in Georgia. For example, if you got hurt on April 20, 2018, you have to file the lawsuit by April 19, 2020.

If you miss the deadline, the law can bar you from ever getting money for your losses. While exceptions exist, they are rare. For this reason, you should not delay in talking with a lawyer.

Pre-Trial Discovery

After we file the lawsuit and before the case comes to trial, we will engage in “discovery” with the insurance company. In other words, both the plaintiff (you) and the defendant try to find out as much information as possible to strengthen their arguments and weaken the other side’s position.

We exchange documents, ask written questions (interrogatories), and take depositions. Depositions are questions we ask of someone in person, under oath, with a court reporter recording what people say. Many cases settle during the discovery phase of the lawsuit.

Trial

The personal injury claims that do not settle have to go to trial. As the plaintiff, we get to go first, putting on our witnesses and evidence for the judge. After we finish, the defense (the insurance company) presents its case. The judge either makes a decision right then or takes the matter under advisement, to make a ruling at a later date.

Comparative Negligence

Often, more than one person made a mistake that led to an injury. If you were partly at fault, you can still go after money damages from the other negligent person, as long as your negligence was less than half of the total negligence that caused the accident.

Georgia’s modified comparative fault law will reduce the amount of your financial recovery in proportion to your fault. In other words, if you were 10 percent at fault, the rule will deduct 10 percent from your award of damages.

Getting Legal Help for Your Atlanta Personal Injury Lawsuit

We understand that these laws and statutes can feel overwhelming, but that is why we are here. When we take care of your legal matters, you can focus on getting well. Call S. Burke Law today at 404-842-7838 to get a free consultation.