Georgia law requires all car accidents to be reported immediately to law enforcement by dialing 911 after the crash. Most cities in Georgia and nearly all insurance carriers require that you contact the police right away. Likewise, you will need to call the authorities if someone is injured or killed, or if the property damage exceeds $500.
Reporting a crash to the police is the first step. After that, you will need to work with insurance companies or the courts to pursue a claim for reimbursement. Waiting to notify the police or file your claim can have serious consequences and weaken your case to receive full compensation.
The car accident and motorcycle accident lawyers at John Foy & Associates are ready to help you understand how long you have to report a car accident and the complicated system around filing an accident claim.
What to Do After a Car Accident
Knowing what to do after an accident helps you avoid panicking and possibly causing more injury or damage. Immediately after an accident, you should follow specific steps to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Georgia state law requires anyone who is involved in an accident to follow certain legal duties, as outlined in Georgia Code §40-6-270:
- Drivers must stop their cars as close to the scene of the accident or return to the scene, relocating their vehicles out of traffic as much as possible.
- All drivers must exchange their contact and insurance information with each other, including showing their driver’s licenses.
- Drivers must render aid to anyone who is injured, including calling for an ambulance or giving any immediate assistance necessary.
- Drivers must notify law enforcement of any injuries or deaths from the accident.
- Each driver should file a report with the DMV themselves or follow up to ensure police submit the report. You can be held liable if the report does not go on record.
Failing to adhere to these duties can result in a hit-and-run charge, which carries significant fines and jail time. You can face a hit-and-run charge even if you collide with an empty vehicle and no one is hurt.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Once everyone is safe, and 911 has been called, you should contact your insurance company to report the incident. Never agree to keep an accident “between us” with other drivers to avoid involving the insurance companies. You could have damage or injuries that are not immediately apparent and could cost you a tremendous amount of money in medical costs or repair bills in the following weeks.
Remember to share only your contact and insurance information with other drivers. Do not admit guilt or apologize, and do not minimize any injuries you have. Accept medical treatment on the scene and follow up with your doctor.
Any statements you make to other drivers or first responders can work against you later on while you are pursuing your claim.
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Georgia Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Claims
After a car crash in Georgia, you will be subject to the statute of limitations, which is a law that says how long a person has to bring forward a legal action. These laws outline firm deadlines for filing your suit. In Georgia, most car accidents follow simple deadlines:
- You generally have two years from the date of the accident to file actions for injuries (called liability claims).
- You generally have four years from the date of the accident to file claims for property damage (for things such as car repairs or personal items that were destroyed).
These deadlines can be different in some cases. For example, if you were 16 when the accident happened, the deadlines above do not start until you turn 18. As a minor, you get much more time than the two- and four-year periods listed.
Accidents Involving Government Vehicles
If the accident involved a government vehicle, however, like a police car or a Parks Department truck, the timelines could be much shorter. For example:
- If it was a city or county vehicle, you may have only 6 months.
- If it was a state vehicle, you may have only one year.
- If it was a federal government vehicle, you must first file an administrative claim with the government department in question. You must do this within two years of the accident. If they reject your claim, you have only 6 months to file in court.
Keep in mind that these statutes apply to lawsuit filings only. Insurance companies often have much shorter deadlines for filing claims against a driver’s coverage. The best rule of thumb is to begin claims against insurance providers as soon as possible after the accident (ideally, the same day) and legal filings as soon as your lawyer advises you to start.
The Best Timeline for Filing Your Case
The deadlines above represent the longest you can legally wait to file a claim in court. However, it is not advisable to wait any longer than you have to. The best thing you can do after your accident is to schedule a free meeting with a lawyer immediately, get a trained legal opinion, and then take the next steps within days.
- Over time, details of an accident become harder to remember and harder to investigate. Evidence can be misplaced or purposely damaged to slow a claim.
- Witnesses become harder to find the longer you wait. Their memories of the crash can change or be forgotten.
- The insurance company will argue that you must not have been badly injured if it took you so long to take action.
- Preparing a case takes time, and you want as much time as possible to ensure that you have a solid legal claim.
If you have already waited months, or even a year or more, you should still speak to a lawyer. Cases can be and are won even after time goes by. Still, your case is strongest, and the most evidence is available to support your claim when the crash is recent. If possible, call a lawyer on the same day as your accident.
Working with Insurance Companies After a Crash
Many insurance companies pride themselves on their customer service and speed in paying out claims, but the truth is that they are in business to make money. They have teams of adjusters and lawyers whose job is to minimize or deny claims to cut their costs. It is critical that you have a qualified car accident lawyer working with you to ensure you receive the most compensation you can.
Your lawyer will handle the negotiations for you and put their experience to work to fight back against the techniques adjusters use to poke holes in your claim. A good attorney should be at your side even when working with your own insurance company. Providers may try to delay paying the claim to get you to give up and accept a lowball offer, but your lawyer should push hard to ensure that all your past, present, and future expenses will be covered.
This is especially important when you cannot reach a satisfactory settlement with the insurance provider and must file a personal injury lawsuit against another driver. Georgia has legal deadlines for filing claims, but filing earlier is helpful to ensure you do not miss the window. Scheduling a free consultation with a skilled car accident attorney will help you understand your options and what choice is best for you.
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Accidents Involving Rideshare Companies Like Uber and Lyft
Another complication you may encounter is when the opposing driver works for a rideshare company such as Uber or Lyft. There are additional elements to consider to determine the proper defendant. Because these drivers are contractors and not full-time employees, sometimes the driver may be personally liable for your damages, except for certain situations when the company insurance will be activated.
There are three main instances where this is the case:
- When the driver is actively using the rideshare app: Rideshare drivers must be “on the clock” or logged into their apps and waiting for a request when the accident happens to be covered by company insurance.
- When the driver is picking someone up: This includes when a driver is traveling to pick up a rider or stopped while the rider enters the vehicle. Company coverage will apply.
- When a passenger is in the rideshare driver’s car: Rideshare company insurance covers the times when the company “owns” the vehicle, such as when the passenger is being transported. The company is therefore liable for any accidents that its drivers cause.
Besides these circumstances, you may be able to file against the rideshare company no matter what the situation is if the court finds that their policies encourage dangerous driving. These kinds of lawsuits can be very complicated and difficult to navigate because both the drivers and rideshare companies will try to deflect blame from themselves. As always, it is best to consult with an experienced Georgia car crash lawyer before deciding when, how, and who to sue for compensation.
Evidence You Will Need to File Your Car Accident Claim
When filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against other drivers, you will need as much evidence as possible to support your case. An experienced lawyer will have a skilled support team who can gather reports and documentation to use when negotiating. Some examples of this evidence are:
- Photos of the accident scene, including weather, road conditions, injuries sustained, and damage to all vehicles
- Statements from eyewitnesses and other drivers
- Police accident reports
- Driving history from the DMV for all drivers
- Accident investigator reports
- Contact and insurance information from other drivers involved
- Records of emergency treatment you received at the scene
- Other medical records of your injuries and the treatment given for them
- Video footage from traffic, security, and dashboard cameras in the area
- Cell phone records of other drivers showing whether they were using their phones at the time of the accident
- Any “black box” information available about the crash from computer control boards in newer vehicles
- Auto repair bills
- Vehicle replacement estimates from a mechanic or car dealership
While you are healing from your injuries and dealing with arranging alternative transportation, your legal team can build your case by pulling together the most information available. More information often allows you to tell your story to the court without the defense being able to nay-say your narrative. Thus, having more evidence can make the difference between a small settlement and a compensation package that truly fits your needs.
Contact a Georgia Auto Accident Attorney for Help Filing Your Claim Today
Have you been injured in a crash and wondered how long you have to report your car accident? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Our qualified professionals will discuss the details of your claim, sift through available evidence, and provide legal advice on how to proceed.
If we take on your case, you can rest easy knowing that the “Strong Arm” is working on getting you the compensation you deserve. Our lawyers have recovered over $1 billion in jury awards and settlements over the past 20 years for our clients. We help you make the right decision for your needs and ensure you do not miss your opportunity to seek the maximum settlement from those who are to blame.
Call or contact us online to request a free consultation now.