The combination of increased automobile speed and the size of SUVs and trucks have become a deadly mix on Atlanta’s roads. All one has to do is watch the television news, read accident accounts in newspapers, or go online to see and hear about the rash of collisions.
Emergency room doctors in Atlanta and surrounding metro counties confirm that the number and severity of injuries incurred as a result of auto, truck, or motorcycle collisions have dramatically increased in recent years despite newer vehicles’ state-of-the-art safety equipment. Atlanta has experienced a dramatic increase in auto traffic, yet the average county highway speed for bumper-to-bumper car and truck (big rig) traffic often exceeds 80 miles per hour. Click here to read about how trucks on the highway are killing us. www.nytimes.com/2015/08/22/opinion/the-trucks-are-killing-us.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0
Here are some frightening statistics for Georgia drivers;
The National Safety Council Report highlights Georgia as one of the 5 states with biggest rise in motor vehicle deaths, 2014-16.
More than 1,500 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Georgia last year alone and across the United States, 40,200 people died in such accidents, making 2016 the deadliest year on the nation’s roads since 2007.
The top three killers are speed, alcohol and distraction - the same things that have killed people for decades. It’s unclear why the Peach State outpaced other states and the nation in rising fatalities. Pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle deaths all rose by double-digits last year in Georgia, as did fatalities involving vehicles that ran off the road – a sign that drivers may not be paying attention behind the wheel.
The State of Georgia’s minimum auto liability insurance limits are low -- $25,000 for the death or injury of one person in a collision, and $50,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in an collision. The minimum for property coverage is $25,000. These are statutory minimum limits. Autos driven into Georgia from other states with less coverage automatically assume the Georgia minimum limits should they cause a collision in Georgia.
Accident victims often faces the reality that there is not enough liability insurance available from the at-fault driver to adequately cover their bodily injury and property losses. Multi-car and multi-truck collision means more defendants, more defenses and often less overall insurance coverage for the most seriously injured victim or his/her loved one. This typically involves large property and bodily injury losses that often exceed minimum auto liability insurance limits.
Common mistakes after an accident:
A large percentage of at fault drivers are either uninsured or underinsured. Make sure you have adequate uninsured motorist insurance coverage. If you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver and you are not at fault, your own uninsured motorist coverage will provide coverage for your injuries and lost wages. Don't rely on an insurance agent telling you that you have "full coverage." Often, an agent's definition of "full coverage" covers only liability and collision coverage, but does not include uninsured motorist insurance. UIM coverage is what covers YOU when you are injured by an uninsured driver. Many people don’t understand that uninsured motorist coverage protects YOU when the at fault driver has minimal or no insurance. Your uninsured motorist policy becomes the amount of money available to protect you after the other driver's insurance money is used up.
For example, let's say Herbert has been badly hurt in an auto accident. The at fault driver, George, has the legal minimum policy which would pay $25,000 to Herbert. Herbert had surgeries and lengthy hospital stays, and missed months from work. He may never be able to work again. He cannot pay his bills or support his family. He may have to file bankruptcy.
Herbert comes to see me. When we see that George only has insurance limits of $25,000, I ask for the limits of Herbert’s uninsured motorist coverage. Herbert tells me he doesn’t know, but says that his agent told him he had “full coverage”. But “full coverage” may not cover Herbert’s medical bills, therapy, and other expenses. It does not cover his lost wages or pain and suffering. It does not cover any passenger in Herbert’s car. Herbert has several hundred thousand dollars in bills and expenses. The law says he should get that money back from George or George’s insurance. But the total amount he can get from George's insurance is $25,000. Once Herbert understands this, he asks about going after George himself – his house or car. I have to tell Herbert that realistically, anyone who can only afford minimal insurance will probably not have a whole lot to go after. And even if he owns a home, it may not have any equity. Finally, even if we sue Herbert, win big at trial and get a 7 figure jury award, Herbert will immediately seek bankruptcy protection and no money will be recovered.
80% of Georgia residents are uninsured or carry only the minimum insurance required by law. By getting a good uninsured motorist policy, YOU decide the amount of insurance available to you in an accident instead of leaving it in the hands of the other driver – who may be a bum with 3 DUI's and a revoked license. If you can afford it, get an auto policy with at least $500,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, or a policy that allows you to purchase an umbrella for your uninsured motorist coverage of $1 million or more. With today’s health care costs, $1million doesn't go as far as it once did -- that can be easily spent in hospital bills after a severe accident. And almost all health care policies now include subrogation clauses, which means that the health care company get paid back out of any auto insurance settlement or verdict before you get a penny.
Unfortunately, it is too late for Herbert. The only insurance money he is entitled to is the $25,000, and some or all of that will probably be paid back to the insurer who paid his hospital bills. He can’t believe it. It’s unfair. But it’s true! It doesn't have to happen to you: you can protect yourself. Do it before you ever need a lawyer.
Selecting a lawyer from a TV ad or billboard is a bad idea. If you hire a law office dependent on volume advertising, you don't know who will be working on your case. Even if you meet a lawyer at an initial meeting, that lawyer may not be personally involved in your case as it progresses. Pre-suit settlement negotiations with insurance companies are often handled by non-lawyers, and sometimes cases are settled for less than maximum value in order to meet quotas and deadlines. As a client, you may not be able to easily assess the competence of the lawyers working on your case. There are many incompetent lawyers who don't care about their clients, only about their fee. If you need a lawyer, whether it is for an automobile accident, an estate, or any other matter requiring legal assistance, make sure you hire a lawyer who has both expertise in the area of law that you need help with, and high ethical standards, and make sure that lawyer is available for a personal discussion about YOUR case.
Do not try to negotiate your personal injury case or your claim for property damage directly with an insurance adjuster, believing that if you don't like the adjuster's "best offer", you can hire a lawyer later. The deck is stacked against you. An adjuster's job depends on saving the insurance company's money, and collecting information from you that might be detrimental to your claim. The adjuster who might act like your best friend does not have your best interests at heart -- his loyalty is to his employer -- the insurance company -- not to you. He/she has no interest in a "fair" settlement, only a settlement that will make his employer happy and may get him/her a promotion or a bonus.
A good attorney will know how to get an insurance adjuster to set initial reserves at a fair value, so the reserves do not need to be re-evaluated later, which is almost impossible. If an adjuster makes a "final decision" about the value of a case based on things you said about how the accident happened or the severity of your injuries, it will be difficult to change his/her attitude even if you hire an attorney later. A good attorney will know how to move your case forward to maximize your chances of a successful recovery, and avoid the pitfalls. If you don't have an attorney assisting you in negotiating or litigating your claim from the very beginning, you are probably hurting your chance of a successful outcome.
If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, don’t wait until the last minute to contact a lawyer about your case. In Georgia, generally, you have two years from the date of the injury to file your lawsuit. However, there are many things that can be done early in the timeline that might be impossible later. In our practice, we have experienced many disappointments when there is a large gap in time between the time of the injury and the time of our investigation. Trees and bushes are cut down, altering the line of sight of pedestrians or drivers, traffic lights or stop signs are added or changed, witnesses move away or forget the details of what they observed, autos involved in a collision are totaled or sold by the insurance company covering the property damage, making them unavailable for pictures or measurements. Medical records showing either liability or the extent of your damage might be changed or lost as time goes on. Also, when a potential client comes in close to the 2 year deadline, we often refuse to take it. Even if it appears to be a good case, there is just not enough time for us to fully investigate all of the potential defendants or whether the client has legitimate legal claims. That is not to say you should call us from the hospital -- get your medical treatment squared away, but don’t forget to get going on your legal claims in a timely manner.
It depends on the language of your health or disability insurance policy. (Honestly, who reads the fine print when you sign up for health insurance?) Often, medical bills paid by health insurance (and that includes Medicare and Medicaid) must be at least partially repaid. However, even if the health insurance plan states that any medical bills caused by your accident shall be fully reimbursed, often that amount can be negotiated by your attorney. This is a complicated and emerging area of law. Don't expect the health insurers who are entitled to reimbursement to just "go away" -- but your attorney can and should fully understand which plans have a right to be re-paid, and which don't. Your attorney can often negotiate the amount to be reimbursed. There is more legal work involved if your health insurer demands reimbursement -- not only getting you the money you deserve from the accident, but the added responsibility of negotiating with your own health or disability insurance company so that you can keep a larger percentage of your personal injury recovery than you would otherwise. Make sure your attorney is up to date on this emerging area of legal representation -- it could mean a large difference in the bottom line amount you receive from your personal injury recovery.
For more than 35 years, R&K lawyers have represented accident victims in Georgia and across the U.S.
Without the right legal counsel, many victims would not have been fairly compensated. R&K knows the fair value of an injury and fights for each client. Rowen & Klonoski provides representation to automobile, truck (big rig), motorcycle, recreational vehicles, bicycles and other types of collisions in Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the U.S.
R&K is happy to provide a free attorney consultation for vehicle accident victims and their families. You can email, call or make an appointment to visit our law offices in Atlanta, Ga. (404) 523-2844 or 1-800-475-6182.