So, you’ve been in a car accident, and now you’re dealing with injuries and property damage from the collision. You’re likely worried about the costs of recovery, how you’ll account for missed work time, and so much more. You might also wonder who can be sued for compensation of your damages and whether or not a lawsuit is the best option.
It’s completely normal to wonder who can be sued in a car accident case and how the process works. Most drivers are not well-versed in personal injury law and how to handle the legal side of a car accident. Thankfully, working with a car accident lawyer can clear up the confusion and give you a professional advantage.
Below, we’ll cover what we go over with our own clients when they ask about suing for a car accident.
Suing the At-Fault Driver After a Car Accident
After a car accident in Georgia, there are three ways you can seek compensation:
- Filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- Making a claim with your own insurance company
- Suing the at-fault driver in civil court
Although a lawsuit is not typically the first option after a car accident, the at-fault party is the only one who can be sued in a car accident case. Most of the time, the at-fault party is another driver who was involved in your accident. They must also be at least partially at fault for your car accident for you to bring a case against them.
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Can You Sue the Insurance Company?
Some car accident victims wonder if they can bring a lawsuit directly against the other driver’s auto insurance company. Most states will not allow you to do this. However, if you sue the at-fault driver and win, their insurance company is typically responsible for paying the settlement decided on by a judge or jury in court.
Most drivers will not have the funds available to directly pay you for your injury costs and vehicle damage. Because of this, the at-fault driver’s insurance company does play a part and will often do everything they can to avoid being brought to court.
If the insurance company believes you have strong evidence showing why the driver is responsible for damages, they are more likely to negotiate a fairer settlement to stay out of court.
This is why having an experienced car accident lawyer is so vital if you sue the driver in a car accident case. They can help you build a strong case and hopefully avoid the need for a lawsuit altogether.
How Fault Works in a Car Accident Lawsuit
To understand who can be sued in a car accident case, you need to know how fault works. In Georgia and most U.S. states, the at-fault party is liable for all costs of an injury accident they caused. The injured party has the legal right to seek compensation for their damages (Ga. Code § 51-12-4).
Comparative Fault in Georgia
Georgia also has a modified comparative fault (or comparative negligence) rule that essentially allows blame to be shared between more than one at-fault party. According to Ga. Code § 51-12-33, you may still have the right to file a compensation claim as long as you are less than 50% percent at fault for the damages claimed.
Your percentage of fault determines how much you are entitled to receive.
For example, say you were determined to be 10% at fault for a car accident, and the other driver was 90% at fault. After the accident, you and your car accident lawyer calculate your damages at $20,000. Since you were 10% at fault, your damages would be reduced by 10%, meaning that 10% of $20,000 ($2,000), would be deducted. You would receive $18,000.
While comparative fault can be beneficial in many cases, the insurance company can also use the rule to try and reduce their liability. If you file a lawsuit or insurance claim against the other driver, their insurance company may claim you hold some fault in the accident. This could reduce the amount of damages awarded to you.
You will need to be prepared to prove the other driver’s fault if you sue them in a car accident case. That includes compiling:
- Picture evidence of the crash, your injuries, and vehicle damage
- The police report
- Witness testimony
- Your medical records
- All bills and receipts
Proving your innocence (and the other driver’s fault) is vital, so the driver and their insurance company can’t find ways to reduce how much they are required to pay you. Because of this, working with a car accident lawyer is highly recommended, whether you take the driver to court or not.
Suing Someone in a Car Accident Case Is Usually Not Necessary
Thankfully, most car accident cases settle long before there is a need to sue someone. If you work with an experienced car accident lawyer, they can help you:
- Calculate your total damages from the accident
- Demonstrate the other driver’s fault
- Build a strong personal injury claim to file with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- Negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement
- Avoid the need to go to court
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
Although you do not have to hire a lawyer to handle your case, it’s highly recommended if you are worried about the insurance company denying or devaluing your claim or not offering what you need to cover your losses. A lawyer can also determine what your total damages are, including any future costs for long-term medical treatment.
During negotiations, your lawyer will gather the necessary evidence to prove fault and demonstrate all your costs. You will likely have damages like:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages from missed work time
- Vehicle damage
- Pain and suffering
- Long-term treatment, such as physical therapy
Your lawyer will come up with a total and present this as your first settlement offer. In most cases, the insurance company will not accept this first offer. They may respond with a lowball settlement and hope you’ll take it. But you should know this is not near enough to cover your damages and you deserve much more.
From here, your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to seek the compensation you need and deserve.
The goal is to settle outside of court and walk away with a settlement that covers your damages. However, there are times when the insurer refuses to budge in negotiations with you and your lawyer. If this happens, you might want to consider suing the at-fault driver. Make sure you have a lawyer who can represent you through the whole process and fight for your rights.
Other Parties That Could Be Held Liable
The other driver involved in the accident is not the only one who may be liable for the crash. Several other parties may bear responsibility for damages. For instance, if the accident was caused by poor road conditions, the government agency responsible for the upkeep of those roads could be at fault.
When an accident is caused by a defect in a vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer could be held liable. Additionally, if a repair company fails to correctly perform its duties on a vehicle that was taken in to be serviced, the company could be held accountable.
There is also the possibility to sue another driver who was not directly involved in the accident but whose actions caused the crash. Unfortunately, if this third-party driver was not part of the collision themselves, it can often be difficult to track them down.
If You Are Going to Sue, You Must Act Quickly
Whomever the responsible party may be, if you are planning to sue, it is important that you not delay. In most car accident cases, Georgia gives accident victims a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. However, certain factors, such as suing a government agency, can decrease the amount of time you have to file.
The best way to ensure that you meet all deadlines is to hire an experienced car accident attorney. Your lawyer can review your case and make sure that all paperwork is filed on time. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to recover fair compensation for your injuries after an accident.
Talk to a Georgia Car Accident Lawyer for Free Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you deserve the best possible chance of getting full compensation for your damages. Our car accident lawyers at John Foy & Associates are committed to helping you do this. We have been helping car accident injury victims win the recovery they deserve for over 20 years.
To talk about your case with us for free, call today or contact us online to get started.