SERVING AUTO ACCIDENT VICTIMS IN HAWKINSVILLE, DUBLIN AND MACON, GEORGIA
Most car accidents are not truly “accidents.” They occur because someone was acting carelessly. The other driver was speeding, texting, or not watching the road signs carefully. When someone else is responsible for a serious car accident, a victim may spend months or years recovering. Some people may never recover.
The Macon’s Lawyer team at Nelson & Smith specializes in all types of car accidents and resulting injuries. We know the difficulties that arise after a car accident. You may face time off work as a result of your injuries, exorbitant medical expenses, and a loss of quality of life. All of these factors are incredibly overwhelming when combined with the physical pain and suffering of an injury, and finding qualified legal support can help.
GEORGIA CAR ACCIDENT LAWS
In Georgia, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident. Our state operates under a comparative fault rule. The court may reduce a plaintiff’s compensation by any amount under 50%. Any party that is 50% or more at fault for the accident loses the ability to collect any damages. For instance, if you are 30% at fault and the court awards a maximum amount of $10,000 for economic and noneconomic losses, you can only walk away with $7,000.
The tricky part in any comparative negligence case lies in assigning percentages of fault. Your car accident attorney will play an instrumental role in investigating the accident and helping the court or an insurance agency see the facts of the case.
AUTO WRECK STATISTICS
After experiencing consistent decline in fatality car accidents from 2006-2014, the state of Georgia saw a significant increase in fatality crashes in 2015, when the figure jumped from 1,140 to 1,427 in just one year. On top of this, only 43 percent of the victims were actually wearing their seatbelt, and 47 percent of the fatalities were a result of single-car crashes. This means that preventable driver error has likely been the root cause of the exponential rise in crashes, injuries and fatalities.
Driver alertness was at the center of the problem last year, as 65 percent of the fatalities were a result of the driver failing to maintain their lane. In order to reverse this trend, Georgia instituted the Drive Alert Arrive Alive program, which focuses on educating people on the dangers of distracted driving, particularly young drivers who may have just recently gotten their license.
Georgia Distracted Driving
In 2014, the year with the most recently available data, there were a total of 6,983 crashes in Bibb County, an increase of more than 1,300 from the previous year. It’s unclear what specifically caused such a drastic increase here – it should be noted that the number of fatality accidents actually decreased by almost 30 percent – but a contributing factor could be distracted driving.
There are a number of things that qualify as distracted driving, and while using a cell phone has generally been considered the most dangerous practice in the last couple of years, there are many other things a driver does that might divide their attention:
- Playing with the radio
- Reaching for something
- Using GPS
- Applying makeup
- Talking to passengers
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there are three types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. Taking your eyes, hands or mind off of driving is bad enough, but texting and driving is the worst because it combines all three. Your eyes leave the road for an average of five seconds when using a cell phone. If traveling 55 mph, you cover the length of a football field in that time. Clearly it’s very dangerous to use a cell phone while driving.
Through August of 2015, the state of Georgia saw 791 traffic fatalities, and state officials attributed the first rise of car accident deaths in nine years to distracted driving. Between 2009 and 2014, the state saw an alarming rise in crashes, injuries and fatalities attributed to distracted driving; there were 862 injury crashes due to distracted driving in 2009, but there 2,275 such crashes just five years later.
GEORGIA SEATBELT AND RESTRAINT USE
Part of the Drive Alert Arrive Alive program’s initiative is to ensure proper seatbelt and restraint use, especially for children under five who have to use a booster seat. Based on observational surveys, seatbelt use in Georgia In the last 20 years has increased by approximately 25 percent. If the results of the survey are accurate, then only 1.5 percent of child passengers weren’t restrained, and 8.5 percent of adults were not as well.
Georgia is one of 28 states that does not have a seatbelt law covering all passengers of all ages. In Georgia, all back seat passengers not required to wear a seat belt. However, there are many other situations and exceptions in which seatbelt regulations don’t apply:
- A driver or passenger frequently stopping and leaving the vehicle or delivering property from the vehicle, if the speed of the vehicle between stops does not exceed 15 miles per hour.
- A driver or passenger possessing a written statement from a physician that such person is unable, for medical or physical reasons, to wear a seat safety belt;
- A driver or passenger possessing an official certificate or license endorsement issued by the appropriate agency in another state or country indicating that the driver is unable for medical, physical, or other valid reasons to wear a seat safety belt;
- A driver operating a passenger vehicle in reverse;
- A passenger vehicle with a model year prior to 1965;
- A passenger vehicle which is not required to be equipped with seat safety belts under federal law;
- A passenger vehicle operated by a rural letter carrier of the United States Postal Service while performing duties as a rural letter carrier;
- A passenger vehicle from which a person is delivering newspapers; or
- A passenger vehicle performing an emergency service.
In terms of child restraints, Georgia regulations require that children under the age of eight and less than 57” tall must sit in the back seat. It also stipulates that children under four must use safety restraints, usually from a car seat. The bus law in Georgia does not require any sort of restraint use for children over four, provided the bus itself is operated by a commissioned childcare facility and is up to date on its inspections.
MOST COMMON TYPES OF ACCIDENT INJURIES
Being injured in a car accident is a scary thing, and it can be tough to know what to do if it happens. A few injuries occur more often than many others, and because they happen so often, knowing what to do for yourself before receiving proper medical treatment can relieve some pain or keep the injury from getting worse. Here are the five injuries that happen the most as a result of a car accident, in no particular order:
- Whiplash: This means the head and neck is subjected to sudden and unexpected movements, as happens in just about every car accident, as rear-end crashes are the most common type. Even if the other car was only going 5 mph, it’s possible to get a pretty bad case of whiplash. You’ll be able to tell you have this if there’s pain or stiffness, decreased range of motion, headache, and/or dizziness. If there is ever any pain in your head or neck area, seek medical treatment immediately. Sometimes with a whiplash injury, the problem may persist or get worse even after being checked by a doctor. If this does happen go back to the doctor. Since whiplash involves soft tissue, symptoms may persist for a long time, and length of an injury could affect how you are compensated.
- Concussion: Blunt trauma to the head in any fashion may result in a concussion. You actually don’t need to hit your head on anything to cause a concussion. If you come away from an accident with blurred vision, sensitivity to light or your head otherwise aches, being tested for a concussion should be first on your list, as it may be an indicator of other potentially serious problems.
- Scrapes and cuts: There are likely a few loose objects in your car which can suddenly become flying projectiles in the case of an accident. Coffee mugs, phone, GPS, sports equipment; anything loose in your car could potentially cause more injury than the crash itself. Scrapes can be relatively minor, but a cut, depending on where it is on your body, could lead to loss of blood.
- Broken bones: Your limbs and the direction in which they go is mostly uncontrollable in a car accident, and thus a broken bone can result. Most people can tell when it happens immediately, so if you believe you’ve broken a bone, do what you can to manage the pain. Try not to move it too much and keep it elevated if at all possible.
- Chest injury: You can sustain one of these by hitting the steering wheel, or more likely, the seat belt will tighten and cause a contusion. However, more severe injuries such as broken ribs or internal bleeding is possible. Flail chest is a particularly dangerous chest injury. If you experience shortness of breath or sharp pain in your abdomen or chest area, seek medical attention.
It is very important to get medical assistance immediately if you are injured in a car accident, no matter how minor you may perceive them to be. If you wait a few days or weeks to get treatment because the injury isn’t getting better, that makes it more difficult to prove that the injury was a direct result of the accident. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, the defense could say something to the effect of, “If the injury was so bad, why did you wait so long to get it checked?” Certainly not an impossible question to answer and provide evidence for, but getting immediate medical help if you’re injured in any way would provide proof that you sought treatment for your injuries.
Types of Car Collisions
Single Car Accidents
Single car accidents are just that, they only involve one vehicle. These types of accidents include vehicle rollovers, running off the road, and hitting a stationary object. Young, inexperienced drivers are much more likely to be involved in a single vehicle accident. However, just because they only involve one motorist, doesn’t mean that the motorist is always at fault. Poor road design or maintenance and unsafe or poorly designed vehicles, parts or tires can all cause single car accidents.
Lane Departure Accidents
One of the most common types of serious auto accidents are lane departures. They occur when one driver suddenly swerves or moves out of their lane and strikes another vehicle. These accidents can occur as a result of an unsafe lane change, a driver falling asleep at the wheel, drunk driving, and even a tire blowout. Lane departure accidents frequently occur on highways and, due to the speed of highway traffic, can have devastating results.
Side-Impact Collisions or T-Bone Accidents
Low Speed Crashes
You don’t have to be traveling at a high rate of speed to be involved in a collision. Low speed accidents, sometimes called fender benders, occur all over Macon’s roadways and parking lots. Most of the time they only cause minor damage to your vehicle, but that isn’t always the case. Striking a pedestrian, motorcyclist, or bicyclist at even low speed can lead to serious injury and even death.
Intersection Related Accidents
Nearly half of all accidents occur at intersections. You have traffic from four or more different directions running through a single point. While most major intersections have traffic control equipment such as stop signs and traffic lights, dangerous or negligent behavior can still lead to serious injuries. Real word examples of intersection accidents include a driver running a stop sign or red light, approaching at unsafe speed and failing to break in time, turning left (unprotected) or right without paying attention and colliding with another vehicle or pedestrian.
DETERMINING FAULT IN REAR-END ACCIDENT
It’s one of the most common types of car crash; one driver rear-ends another. Generally, the driver who got hit will rarely be found at fault in this situation. However, there are extenuating circumstances in which fault can be attributed to either driver.
Usually damage to your back bumper and the other person’s front bumper makes it obvious who was at fault; the other driver hit you. But there are a few cases when it could be your fault, such as reversing suddenly, or stopping suddenly to turn, which can be especially problematic if one or both of your brake lights happen to not be working. Failing to signal when turning or to apply your hazard lights if you’ve gotten a flat tire are also situations in which fault would be applied to you rather than the driver who hit you.
There is also the multi-car collision, in which the driver behind you was pushed into your car by another driver. This can happen a lot on freeways or other high-speed roads, usually when a driver fails to see an upcoming traffic jam and doesn’t brake in time. This can also happen if you and the car behind you are sitting still at a red light, but the third car hits the second one and pushes it into yours. In these cases, the third driver would be responsible for damage to all three cars.
Because Georgia is a comparative negligence state, different percentages of fault can be applied. If you are found to be more than 50 percent at fault, then you won’t be able to receive any compensation for damages or injuries. So even if you were hit from behind by another driver, if you’re found to be negligent in any of the above scenarios, you may be in the majority of fault.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
Until you go through a car accident, you may not know exactly what you should do in the aftermath. If doing anything would compromise your health, do not move until medical assistance arrives! If you can move around easily, do the following:
- Snap some pictures of the accident site – If you have your smartphone available, take a few pictures from every angle. This will help the insurance company and a potential future personal injury case.
- Always seek medical attention – You may experience some level of shock after an accident, and some symptoms may not manifest until hours or days after the accident. Go to see a physician, and inform him or her you were in an accident.
- Insist upon an accident report – File an accident report with the proper law enforcement agency so you have a formal record of the incident.
- Do not mention your accident on social media – Social media evidence may be contorted to hurt your case, so avoid posting anything about your accident.
- Talk to witnesses – See if witnesses will provide you with a name and phone number for reference later.
- Do not agree to or sign anything from an insurer – Insurance companies want you to settle quickly so they can move on. Avoid signing any documents from your own insurer or another insurer until you speak with a Macon accident and injury attorney.
It does not cost anything to contact an auto accident lawyer to talk about your case. During a free initial consultation, our team will help you decide if moving forward with a claim is the best option.
FILING A MACON CAR ACCIDENT CLAIM
Every state is different when it comes to filing claims, determining settlements and overall negligence law. In Georgia there are statute of limitation regulations that essentially require you to file personal injury or property damage claim within a certain time period. With personal injury, the statute of limitations is two years. However, the start date of said injury can fluctuate.
It is certainly important to seek immediate medical attention after a car accident, even if only minor injuries occurred, because of the exact situation described above. However, it is possible for the injury to not make itself apparent until much later on. This would mean that the “clock” of limitations wouldn’t start ticking until the injury is actually discovered and diagnosed, as opposed to when it actually happened. This is known as the Discovery Rule, and while it can’t apply all the time, it is possible to prove that an injury wasn’t known until well after an accident. The statute of limitations on property damage is four years.
THE TEAM AT NELSON & SMITH IS HERE TO HELP
We prepare every case as though it will go to trial, and we aren’t afraid to go there if needed. If you have trouble finding good medical care or face actions from bill collectors, we will represent you in every way we can.
Our work does not stop when we secure a fair settlement. We will continue to advocate on our clients’ behalf to reduce expenses associated with the injury. Our team of experienced car accident attorneys also handles wrongful deaths that arise out of car accidents. Contact our office in Macon today to learn more.