Is Georgia a “no-fault auto accident” state? What exactly is the difference between a “fault” state and a no-fault state?
What kind of automobile insurance are drivers required to carry in Georgia? And what are your rights if you are injured in a traffic crash in this state because another driver was negligent? Can a car accident attorney in Atlanta help?
WHAT INSURANCE IS REQUIRED FOR DRIVERS IN GEORGIA?
Because Georgia borders Florida, and Florida is a “no-fault” state, people are sometimes confused about auto insurance in Georgia, but there is no need to be.
Georgia is a fault state. You are about to learn what that means and how auto insurance works in fault states like Georgia.
By law, motorists in Georgia are required to carry at least this much liability insurance coverage:
• $25,000 for an individual’s injury or death in an accident
• $50,000 total for more than one injury victim or death in an accident
• $25,000 of property damage coverage
In a no-fault state like Florida, your own auto insurance automatically covers your property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and your personal pain and suffering after a traffic crash, without regard to which driver was at-fault in the collision.
HOW DOES INSURANCE COVERAGE WORK IN A “FAULT” STATE?
But you don’t have that automatic coverage in a fault state like Georgia. If you have been injured, in order to recover damages from an at-fault driver for either property damages or personal injury, you must prove that the other driver was in fact at-fault.
It’s actually even more complicated than that. Georgia uses the “modified comparative fault” rule for assigning liability in traffic collisions. In order to collect any damages from an at-fault driver, you have to prove that you are yourself less than fifty percent at fault for the accident.
Thus, the other driver’s auto insurance will only cover your damages if that driver is fifty-one percent or more at-fault for the accident and then only for the percentage of fault assigned to them. Thus the hope is the other driver is at-fault and is 100% at-fault for the accident.
That should not be a concern for most injury victims after most traffic accidents, because in most accidents, a single driver is one hundred percent at fault; that is almost always the case in head-on, rear-end, and “t-bone” collisions.
HOW CAN “MODIFIED COMPARATIVE FAULT” WORK?
But if you have any fault of your own in a collision, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. Let’s say, for example, that you are t-boned by an intoxicated driver who runs a red light, but you were speeding about seven miles per hour over the posted limit.
In such an example, you might be considered ten percent responsible for the accident because you were moderately speeding, so if your total injury claim amounted to $10,000, it would be reduced by ten percent, and you could receive no more than $9,000 in your recovery.
Who makes that determination? It would be a jury, and only after considering the facts in a personal injury trial.
The other driver’s insurance company might claim that you were partly at-fault in an accident, but if no settlement of the case can be reached, the final decisions are made only by a jury.
HOW CAN YOU PROVE FAULT?
These cases can be complicated because Georgia is a fault state, which puts the burden on you, when you file a personal injury or property damage claim, to prove that you were less than fifty percent at-fault – and that the other driver was more than fifty percent at-fault – for the accident.
How do you prove that another driver was at-fault in a vehicle collision? In traffic accident cases, the police accident report is often a key, central piece of evidence, and one or more of the officers who responded to the accident may even testify in court regarding fault.
Other witnesses, video evidence, and other physical evidence can also be used to prove fault. If the police found open containers of alcohol in the at-fault driver’s vehicle, for example, that would be “physical” evidence of fault.
WHAT CAN AN INJURY VICTIM RECEIVE?
In Georgia, if you have been injured by an at-fault driver, how much can you expect to receive in an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every case is different.
Compensation payments are based on the extent of the injuries and damages, and your compensation may be reduced if you are found partially at-fault for the accident.
WHEN SHOULD YOU TAKE LEGAL ACTION?
If you’re a driver who is involved in a traffic collision in Georgia, you will have to report the accident at once to your automobile insurance company, and you will probably also need to submit an insurance claim.
Georgia’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit – the amount of time you have to bring legal action after you’ve been injured or suffered property damage – is two years (from the accident date) for a personal injury lawsuit and four years for a property damage lawsuit.
You do not want to wait two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. You want instead to put your attorney to work as quickly as possible.
How long will it take to resolve your claim? Once again, there is no way to say, because once again, every case is different. Most claims, however, are resolved in just weeks or within a few months at most, and most claims are resolved privately, without the need for a jury trial.
But when fault is disputed in a personal injury case, or if an automobile insurance company simply refuses to act ethically and instead operates in “bad faith,” a final resolution of your case could conceivably take longer – even several years – and include a jury trial.
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS TELL US ABOUT ACCIDENTS IN GEORGIA?
In 2015, the average number of traffic accidents reported every day in this state surpassed one thousand. More than 1,400 traffic fatalities and 19,000 serious traffic injuries were reported in Georgia that year.
As the statistics show us, it’s easy to get injured in a traffic crash in this state. Succeeding with a personal injury claim, on the other hand, isn’t always so easy.
If the evidence supports your claim, and if you are represented by a skilled car accident attorney, you’ll be in the best position to receive compensation for your injuries and damages after an accident.
After sustaining an injury in a traffic accident, if you have any questions or concerns regarding your rights or about obtaining the compensation you deserve, speak at once with an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer. Having a good attorney’s advice and guidance is your right.