The purpose of car insurance is to protect you from certain consequences of a car accident, such as getting sued by the other driver or getting into an uninsured motorist accident. Your insurer will also handle the other driver’s damages if you’re found to be at fault for an accident. But what about the costs of hiring a lawyer?
You might wonder whether your insurance covers any legal costs after an accident. The short answer is sometimes, as it depends highly on the circumstances surrounding your accident and who was at fault. Here’s what you need to know.
Car Insurance Primarily Covers Damages from Your Accident
If you were in an accident and the other driver gets found to be at fault, it will be their insurance company that pays for your damages. Damages are another word for costs and losses you experience as a result of a car accident, such as:
- Medical bills
- Vehicle repairs or replacement
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering damages
On the other hand, if you get found to be at fault for an accident, your car insurance will be responsible for the other driver’s damages. If you own a car in Georgia, you must have at least the minimum insurance coverage, which is:
- Bodily injury liability: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Property damage liability: $25,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist bodily injury (optional): $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist property damage (optional): $25,000 with a $250, $500, or $1000 deductible
This coverage protects you if you’re found to be at fault in an accident or if you get into an accident with a driver who is uninsured or underinsured.
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How Attorney Fees Get Paid
Who pays for the attorney typically depends on your situation and your level of fault in the accident. For example, if you have over 50% of the fault in a car accident, you are the liable party. If you have less than 50%, you may be eligible for compensation.
However, according to Georgia’s contributory negligence statute, that compensation could be docked, Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) §51-12-33. If you are the at-fault party, then there is a chance that your insurance company could pay for your lawyer. However, that isn’t always true, so you should check with your lawyer and insurance company. There are certain circumstances that could lead to you paying for part or all of your legal bills.
If you were not at fault in the accident, then technically, you need to pay your legal fees to sue the other driver. However, with an Atlanta law firm like John Foy & Associates, you don’t need to pay anything out of your own pocket. Instead, we take contingency fees, which means our payment comes out of a portion of your settlement.
Car Insurance Can Sometimes Pay for Legal Fees
In some cases, your car insurance may help pay for a lawyer. For example, if the other driver sues you for an accident, your auto insurer will usually have a “duty to defend” you based on their liability insurance policy.
Under those terms, they may pay for a lawyer to defend you if you’re sued after the accident. However, there are circumstances where you might not be covered.
The Damages Exceed Your Policy Limit
If the damages your insurance company has paid out for the accident go above your policy coverage limits, they will typically not pay any more. Therefore, legally, they have no further duty towards you as the policyholder, which means they don’t have to provide the money for a lawyer.
You Don’t Give Notice of the Accident
This is where it’s essential to read your insurance policy after an accident carefully. It will detail how soon you need to notify the insurer about an accident. Don’t delay, as sometimes this limit is not more than 5-10 days from the accident.
If you don’t have a good reason for not notifying the insurer within the correct time limit, they may be able to refuse you coverage for the costs of the accident. Unfortunately, that would mean they also won’t provide you with a lawyer if the other driver sues you.
Causing the Accident Intentionally
If you get accused of intentionally causing a car accident, the insurer may also be able to deny you coverage. This would be outside the frame of negligence, which is what personal injury claims get based upon.
What Is “Legal Liability?”
Legal liability insurance is the portion of your insurance policy set aside to cover legal fees and compensation for their damages. Georgia requires every driver to have liability insurance. You could be subject to fines, license suspension, vehicle impoundment, or even jail time if you drive without liability coverage.
The minimum liability insurance requirement in Georgia is a split limit: 25/50/25. That’s $25,000 for injuries per person, $50,000 for injuries per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. Those are the minimum numbers, but you can always get more coverage.
Don’t Expect Your Insurance Company to Pay for Your Legal Fees
If you are the victim of a car accident and the other driver is at fault, their insurance company will typically be responsible for your damages, not your own insurer. Therefore, your insurance company won’t pay for you to sue the other person.
Their job is to investigate the accident and only pay any additional claims that are covered by your policy. For example, Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. So basically, if you want to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, you will be responsible for hiring a car accident lawyer on your own.
Always Get Help from a Lawyer
Don’t worry if you don’t have the money to pay for a lawyer. There are countless ways to still file a claim with legal representation without having to pay exorbitant amounts of money. Insurance companies love to lie, saying that hiring a lawyer is costly and not worth it. In reality, they’re just trying to get you to settle for less fast.
Remember, most lawyers offer free case reviews and consultations. It doesn’t hurt to go in to check what your legal options are and how payment is going to work. You shouldn’t trust insurance companies for what they say at face value. Always take the initiative to look for solid legal aid quickly after a car accident.
Never Pay for Legal Fees Upfront
As mentioned previously, our car accident attorneys never take any payment for legal services out of pocket. Instead, we take a portion of your settlement as legal fees. In this sense, the insurance company does pay for your lawyer’s legal fees indirectly since the settlement covers it.
If we can’t win compensation for your claim, you owe us absolutely nothing. The last thing our lawyers want to do is become another financial burden after your car accident. You don’t have to worry about any hidden fees or surprising costs. You only pay when we win you a settlement for your claim.
Talk to a Car Accident Attorney in Atlanta for Free
Don’t let the cost of a personal injury lawyer keep you from getting help. The Atlanta car accident lawyers at John Foy & Associates make it risk-free to work with us because we don’t get paid unless we win you money. And the initial consultation is always free. Call us or contact us online to speak with one of our attorneys today.