Your sister and her family were visiting for the holidays and you were dying to get some quiet alone time with her. You packed the husbands and kids off to the movies and the two of you headed to the Morris Museum of Art. You got your fill of Impressionism in the South and Civil War Portraiture and caught up with your sister. You were feeling much more centered and ready to face the inevitable Candyland and Lego marathon at home as you drove down 10th Street. All of a sudden, you felt a big thud. The car in back rear-ended you. So much for feeling centered. What happens now? What do you do? Here is some basic information for dealing with a car accident in the Garden City.
For general information on car accidents, you may wish to first check out FindLaw's section on Car Accident Liability. Then you can return here for some information specific to Richmond County.
Make Sure to Stop
The first thing to do after an accident is to stop at the accident scene or as close as possible to it without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
According to Georgia Annotated Code 40-6-270, if you are involved in an accident with an attended vehicle resulting in injury, death or vehicle damage, you are obligated to stop, provide information (name, address, registration and drivers' license), and render reasonable assistance to any injured person. Depending on the severity of the accident, failure to comply with these requirements can be deemed a felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years.
Even if you strike an unattended vehicle, Georgia law provides that you must stop and either locate the owner of the vehicle or leave a note in a conspicuous place with your contact information.
FindLaw's article on First Steps After A Car Accident has some helpful tips, as well as a link to a pamphlet with a checklist of actions to take, plus space to collect the other driver's information.
Georgia Annotated Code 40-6-273 dictates that if you are in an accident involving death, injury, or damage to an apparent extent of $500 or more, you must "immediately, by the quickest means of communication" notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. As a result, depending on where the accident happens, notify either the Richmond County Sheriff's Office or the Georgia State Patrol.
In order to drive in Georgia, you must have automobile liability insurance at the following minimum levels:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person;
- $50,000 for bodily injury per occurrence; and
- $25,000 for property damage per occurrence.
You are not required to have physical damage insurance (for loss or damage to your own car) or uninsured motorist insurance, but many people have these types of coverage to further protect themselves in the event of an accident.
Following an accident you should contact your insurer right away and be honest and forthcoming with them about the circumstances of the collision. However, you are not required to allow the insurer to record your telephone call or to automatically accept their estimates. Here are some additional Do's and Don'ts in car insurance claims.
Bringing A Lawsuit
If you are thinking about taking legal action against the other driver, don't wait too long. Statutes of limitations are the timeframes within which you must file a lawsuit or abandon it forever. These vary by state and cause of action, and in Augusta and the rest of Georgia you generally have 2 years to bring a personal injury action.
Most personal injury suits are based on the claim that one party was negligent. To be negligent is essentially to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident.
In some cases, however, both parties are negligent -- what happens then? In Augusta and the rest of Georgia, so long as you are less than 50% at fault you may still pursue recovery from the other driver, although it will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. So, for example, if you were 40% responsible for the accident and your damages were $10,000 you could still potentially recover 60% or $6,000.
Getting An Attorney
Depending on the nature of the accident you were involved in and your injuries, you may wish to consult a lawyer specializing in car accidents. Check out this FindLaw section on Car Accident Legal Help for articles explaining legal fees and costs, tips on what to look for in an attorney, and more.