Step-by-step guide to filing a personal injury claim in Georgia
Personal injury lawsuits usually begin as insurance claims that have gone through the company claim processing system.
Claims can be vigorously contested and often outright denied when the insurance provider thinks they can prove no responsibility in a court proceeding. This is a significant and common occurrence in Georgia because the state uses a modified comparative negligence law. This bars financial recovery for claimants who have 50 percent or greater responsibility for causing the accident. This stipulation means that a 50/50 accident fault determination would allow the insurance company to deny your coverage and benefits.
This legal technicality clearly works to the advantage of the insurance providers in Georgia, and they always use the law when there could be an effective comparative negligence defense. This applies to slip-and-fall cases and other premises liability claims in addition to auto accidents claims. These cases require aggressive legal representation from an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer when maximum damages are being sought.
If your insurance claim has been denied or not taken seriously, here are the steps involved with suing for personal injury in Georgia.
Step 1. Filing the claim
Lawsuits should be filed quickly following a denial in benefits or a substantially low offer to settle from an insurance provider. Both parties can force the case to court, and the details of a claim make a major difference.
The plaintiff is required to file the complaint at the beginning of the legal action, and respondents are served a process notification of the lawsuit filing. They can then prepare their defense to be presented during the discovery hearing.
If the respondent fails to respond, then the case is ruled in summary due to defendant default. This rarely happens in an injury case, however, as insurance companies and their clients almost always contest a claim in the initial procedures of a suit.
Step 2. Discovery hearing
The first official court date will be the discovery hearing where the plaintiff or their attorney explains the elements of the case and the defendant presents their reasons for contesting. Liability is a central issue in the discovery process, as the judge will assess how the law applies to the claim of the plaintiff. The court can either agree that there is a certain degree of liability or they can absolve the defendant of responsibility to pay insurance coverage benefits in some situations.
In addition, the primary negligent party can contest the claim as well. There are circumstances where the insurance company may not be liable while the primary respondent does share at least some responsibility.
It is important to note that discovery is not the final determination of the case, but more of a hearing to determine if the case can go forward in the court system.
Components of the discovery process can include:
- Interrogatories between parties
- Requests for disclosure of pertinent case information
- Requests for depositions
Step 3. Going to trial
If the discovery negotiation doesn’t yield an agreement or settlement between the parties, the court will then schedule a trial date where all case particulars and assertions of each party are presented formally. The plaintiff’s attorney will present their side first. This sets out the legal reasoning behind the claim, which is always evidence to support a claim of liability due to a failure to provide a reasonable duty of care to the plaintiff on the part of the primary negligent actor.
In the case of suing another driver for a car accident, the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company typically provides the defense for their client during this process. The defense aims to secure an exemption of liability based on any technicality that can be presented for evaluation. Insurance companies in Georgia take this step regularly because of the 50/50 rule.
Insurers will aggressively try to make the argument that your degree of fault for the injury is half or more, thereby eliminating their legal obligation to pay the claim.
The final say on comparative fault will be determined by a judge or jury, which is why it is vital to have an experienced Georgia trial attorney representing your case to minimize your degree of fault.
Step 4. Case deliberation
The jury or judge is the final arbiter when a personal injury case goes to court, and insurance company attorneys are well-known for being ruthless in the trial. The extent of injury often doesn’t matter to the insurance provider and the actual negligent respondent could still be liable for damages beyond insurance protection.
For this reason, injured plaintiffs should always have aggressive and experienced legal counsel on their side when the trial is highly contentious. The judge or jury will determine the level of fault between all parties based on the strength of the material case evidence.
The attorney you select to handle your personal injury case can make a major difference in the outcome in the state of Georgia. That difference maker is the legal team at Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson in Macon. Contact our team today for your free consultation.