After suffering a personal injury from an accident, you have the right to file a claim against any negligent party responsible under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) § 51-1-6. Even though you may file a claim, that doesn’t mean you instantly receive compensation. You still have to fight and negotiate for your settlement.
How do you win your personal injury claim? While every case is unique, winning any personal injury case requires evidence and familiarity with the law. It also requires understanding each of the points above and how they affect your case. So, let’s look at each point and address it in detail.
Understanding Personal Injury Claims
- You need to prove that your injury was caused by some negligence by the other party.
- The reason you are seeking a financial recovery is to offset the medical costs, lost work time, or other damages associated with your injury.
- Your claim is typically against an insurance company or other large business, not the individual(s) who caused the injury.
While these three common features are relatively easy to understand, in the context of your case, it’s hard to keep track of everything you need to know and do to ensure that you have the best chances of winning the settlement you deserve.
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How Negligence Works
“Negligence” is the key to virtually all personal injury cases. You aren’t saying the person set out to cause you an injury; you’re saying that they were careless in some way, and their carelessness caused the injury. If you can prove this, you have a strong claim.
Here are examples of negligence in different types of claims:
- Another car hit your car in a parking lot. The other car driver wasn’t breaking any laws but said he didn’t see you because he looked down at his car radio. Looking at the radio while driving is careless, and his negligence caused the accident.
- A drunk driver is speeding down the street while you are legally crossing an intersection. The driver sees you too late and tries to stop, but still hits you, causing multiple injuries. The driver was breaking two laws (DUI and speeding), and it was their negligence that caused your injury.
- Slipping on a puddle in a store and breaking your wrist when you fall. The store owner was inattentive and neglectful in dealing with the immediate hazard. Thus, it was their negligence that caused your broken wrist.
These are just a few examples. Negligence also applies to medical device companies who don’t address potential safety risks in their products; dog owners who don’t control their animals; and anyone else who doesn’t act with care regarding the safety of their customers, guests, or those around them.
Collect Evidence for Your Personal Injury Claim
To win your personal injury claim, you will need to prove negligence on the other party’s part. And to do that, you will need to gather facts about what happened beyond just how you injured yourself. You or your lawyer can do this by:
- Asking witnesses at the scene
- Reviewing police reports
- Reviewing company documents or records
- Requesting security camera footage
- Asking an expert to analyze what happened and give expert testimony
- Compelling the other party in the suit to complete an interrogatory and get their full story
Note that many of these actions involve filing a motion with the courts. For example, you may need a court order to subpoena security camera footage. This is why claims handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer are so much more likely to succeed.
The Question of Causation
One important thing your evidence has to show is that the negligence caused your injury. Only the damages caused by that moment of negligence are eligible for a claim. In other words, we have to show causation.
Let’s say you slipped and injured your hip and your shoulder. You already had an existing shoulder injury. It’s easy to show that the fall caused the hip injury, but the shoulder injury would be more challenging.
We would have to compare medical records from before your accident and after to see how much extra damage was caused by your fall. These questions of causation can get tricky fast. They’re best left for your lawyer.
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Proving Your Damages
Simply proving who caused the injury isn’t enough. You also need to document the total cost of the injury so that the court can see why you deserve the amount you’re requesting in your personal injury claim. The types of damages you can seek include:
- All immediate and long-term medical costs associated with the injury
- The cost of rehabilitation or physical therapy, if necessary
- Money to make up for lost wages from work time you missed
- The cost of physical damages such as car repairs
- Additional compensation to offset any permanent injuries, disabilities, or an inability to work in the future
Calculating all your damages can be confusing. This is why an excellent attorney will:
- Make sure you see a specialist who is familiar with your specific kind of injuries
- Add in the cost of all secondary or ongoing treatments
- Wait until you have completed some treatment and have seen improvement before putting together a total sum
When choosing a figure, it’s important that you don’t just add up your existing bills. Remember, unless you have already made a 100% recovery, it’s hard to predict the cost of future treatment, and there could always be unexpected complications down the line.
What About Pain and Suffering?
There are also non-economic damages, like pain and suffering, that can be added to your claim. These are intangible damages that the law recognizes but do not have an actual dollar value. We must negotiate these.
One common way to do this is to add a multiplier to all the other economic damages, but there are others. Your lawyer can figure out how to get evidence for non-economic damages and work with the insurance company for the best level of compensation for your circumstances.
Dealing With an Insurance Company
Finally, it’s crucial to bear in mind who is sitting across the table from you in a personal injury suit. It’s seldom the individual driver, homeowner, dog owner, doctor, or business owner involved in your injury. Instead, it will be their insurance company.
Insurance companies fight personal injury claims for a living. This is their entire business: staving off liability wherever possible. They have no problem paying a fair settlement when they can clearly see they would lose in court; paying you is cheaper than a court battle, and the cost is built into their business model.
Insurers will look for ways to discredit you while denying and devaluing your claim. They will also use negotiation tactics to try and rattle you into accepting a smaller amount than you really deserve. For example:
- If they call you and start the conversation with, “How are you today?” and you say, “Fine,” they will use this against you.
- If you give them a recorded statement, they will find the one sentence that makes it sound like you are less injured than you genuinely are.
- They may offer you fast money before you know the total cost of your injury, hoping you will blindly sign away your right to more.
- They may delay processing your claim or giving you an answer at all while you face ever-increasing medical bills and become desperate for money.
Most times, they will try to blame you for your own injury or even try to portray you as a liar. It’s tough to deal with insurers and their lawyers in a calm, level-headed way, and they know this.
Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You Win
The best action you can take in any personal injury case is to get an excellent lawyer of your own. Once you do, the insurance company must only speak with your attorney, and you protect yourself from falling into their traps.
The experienced personal injury lawyers at our law firm can help you with your case by:
- Assisting you in gathering evidence
- Helping you file your claim correctly
- Representing you and your best interests during negotiations
- Take your claim to court if necessary
- Handling all your communications on your behalf
- Answering all your legal questions and providing sound legal advice
Remember, there’s no reason to fight for your claim alone. While you can pursue a settlement by yourself, doing so will put you at a major disadvantage against the insurance company. Instead, allow us to help you win financial compensation while you focus on what matters the most, recovering from your injury.
Don’t Wait to File Your Personal Injury Claim
OCGA § 9-3-33 only gives personal injury victims a general two-year timeframe to file their claims. However, depending on your case and how your personal injury occurred, you may even have less time than usual. Because of this, it’s always best to try and get started on your claim as soon as possible.
After you receive medical treatment, reach out to one of our experienced personal injury lawyers. While it isn’t best to quickly file with no thought, that doesn’t mean you should sit on your case for too long. Instead, always strive to take prompt action to ensure that you have the best chance possible of winning your settlement.
Get Your Free Consultation Today
Have you been injured and want to know how to win your personal injury claim? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of Georgia’s most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers. Fill out our online contact form or call us to get your free consultation today.