When someone’s negligence causes you harm, it can throw off your entire life.
You have to face the physical and emotional toll of an injury. Plus, you have to navigate the complicated personal injury claims process.
Below, the attorneys at Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, P.C. describe the basic steps for how to file a personal injury claim in Georgia. These steps may vary depending on the extent of your injuries and the nature of your potential personal injury claim. Consulting with a Georgia-based personal injury attorney will put you in the best position for a lawsuit.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim in Georgia
Below are general steps for how to file a personal injury claim in Georgia. You may think that filing a personal injury claim starts with writing and submitting a lawsuit. However, there are several things you’ll need to do before filing a lawsuit in court.
Seek Medical Treatment
Your health comes first. You should immediately seek medical care after an injury. You might be taken to the hospital immediately. Sometimes, however, you may not feel the full effects of an injury after a car crash or a slip and fall because your adrenaline is racing.
You should seek medical treatment right away, regardless. This is important for your physical well-being but also, medical records that demonstrate your injuries are essential in any personal injury case. If you wait too long to seek treatment, the defendant will likely claim that your injuries happened after the incident—and not because of it.
You should gather evidence before you file a personal injury claim.
Evidence that you’ll need includes:
- Medical records
- Witness statements
- Police reports
- Photographic evidence
- Medical bill receipts
- A statement
The evidence you need may be different depending on your particular case. An experienced attorney can help you decipher exactly what you’ll need to proceed.
Be Aware of the Time
Every state has a time limit by which you must file a civil claim. This is called the statute of limitations. In Georgia, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case is two years from the date of the injury. But as you can see, there is a lot that must happen before you file a lawsuit and all these steps take time—so don’t wait until the last minute. In fact, the sooner you act, the better.
Notify the Insurance Company (If Any)
You may need to notify an insurance company. If, for example, you were in a car crash, you’ll contact your insurance company and the insurance company of the at-fault party. In a slip and fall case, the premises owner may have insurance.
However, speak with your personal injury attorney before engaging in any negotiations with an insurance company or making an official statement. Insurance adjusters are trained to get you to say something that could harm your case and save them money. Do not give a statement to an insurance adjuster. It’s important that you let your lawyer do the talking for you.
Generally, in Georgia, injured parties prove personal injury claims through the legal theory of negligence.
To demonstrate negligence, you must show the following:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty, such as the duty to drive safely or the duty to maintain their premises in good repair
- The at-fault party breached that duty
- The breach caused you harm
- You suffered damages as a result of the breach
Georgia also uses contributory negligence for fault. If you are partially responsible for your injuries, a court will reduce your potential recovery by the percentage you are at fault. Parties who are more than 49% at fault will not be able to recover any compensation.
Often, the parties begin negotiations well before filing a lawsuit. For example, an insurance company might try to settle your case quickly by making you a lowball offer. You should speak with a personal injury attorney before taking any offer.
Your lawyer typically sends a demand letter to the responsible party. This sets forth your claims and opens the door to negotiations. Many cases settle from demand letters, so the negligent party can avoid court. If these pre-court endeavors fail, a skilled attorney can file your lawsuit.
File a Lawsuit
If negotiations fail, you’ll have to file a lawsuit in court. Your attorney will draft a complaint and have it served on the other parties. You’ll then attend court dates, make arguments, and exchange documents.
You could also potentially be deposed, where the other party’s lawyer asks you questions under oath. A judge will typically encourage you and the other party to settle the case along the way. However, if the case doesn’t settle, you’ll have to go to trial, where a judge or jury decides your case.
Hire an Experienced Georgia Personal Injury Attorney
One of the first steps you should consider before filing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia is hiring a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to handle many of the above steps. Fortunately, the attorneys at Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley, P.C. can help. We have nearly 40 years of experience helping Georgians obtain the compensation they deserve in personal injury cases.
Contact us online or call (706) 354-4000 today so we can properly execute these and other essential steps to get you the compensation you need and deserve. We offer free consultations and there is no charge unless we recover money for you in your case.