The bills from a car accident can add up quickly. You may face expensive car repairs and medical bills from multiple providers—and to top it off, your injuries may keep you from working. Watching the bills pile up when you have no income is stressful, so one of your top priorities after a car accident will probably be figuring out how to get paid after a car accident.
If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by another driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation from that driver and their insurance provider. This compensation (known legally as damages) can help cover your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses related to your accident. You can try to get paid on your own after the car accident, but we recommend working with a car accident lawyer.
You Can Seek Payment from Insurance Companies
If another driver caused your accident, you can seek compensation directly from their insurance provider. According to the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, all drivers in Georgia must carry liability insurance that meets minimum standards set by the state. Drivers must carry at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident in bodily injury liability and $25,000 per incident in property damage liability, although drivers may purchase higher coverage.
Depending on the extent of your losses, you can seek the total amount of coverage that the at-fault driver carries. For example, if you were the only person injured in the accident and your medical bills total $25,000, you can seek $25,000 in damages for medical care from the other driver’s insurance provider.
While Georgia requires drivers to carry liability insurance, some drivers fail to purchase it. If an uninsured motorist caused your accident and you have uninsured motorist insurance, you can seek compensation from your own insurance provider. If you are not sure what type of coverage you carry, contact your insurance provider promptly.
You Can Seek Payment From the At-Fault Driver
You may need to seek compensation directly from the at-fault driver to get paid after a car accident. While $25,000 in damages for bodily injury and another $25,000 for property damage may sound like a lot of money, that money often runs out quickly if you have serious injuries. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal cord injuries, amputations, and other life-altering injuries can require hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in medical treatment.
Some people will need months or years of medical assistance after a car accident, and others will need medical assistance for the rest of their lives. $25,000 simply will not cover those expenses. Drivers who cause damages beyond their insurance coverage are personally liable for those damages, so you can pursue damages from the at-fault driver after their insurance coverage runs out. You may need to seek compensation in court to ensure that you get paid.
Filing a Claim to Get Paid After a Car Accident
If the at-fault driver has auto insurance, their insurance provider should pay for your losses up to the policy limits. You can get paid after your car accident by filing an insurance claim with their provider. With most insurance companies, you can file a claim online, through a mobile app, over the phone, or on paper.
To file the claim, you should compile:
- Date and location of the accident
- Description of what happened: You can provide a description of what happened, but it helps to have evidence that shows your side of the story. If you have them, be sure to include eyewitness accounts from other people who saw the accident, police reports, traffic or security camera footage, and any other evidence that verifies your story.
- Estimated value of your losses: It might not be clear just yet what the total value of your losses will be, but it’s helpful to provide an estimate. Be sure to save all receipts and bills for your medical care and vehicle repairs to support your claim.
You do not have to file an insurance claim immediately after your car accident, but you should file it as soon as you reasonably can. If you rush to file it, you risk leaving out critical information. However, you should not wait months or years if you can help it. Some insurance companies have deadlines, so check right after your accident to make sure you know how long you have to file your claim.
How Much Can I Get Paid After a Car Accident?
Every car accident is different, and the amount of money you can get paid after your accident depends on many factors. The extent of your injuries, length of your recovery, long-term prognosis, time away from work, and cost of your medical care and vehicle repair bills all affect the value of your losses. A lawyer with experience handling car accident cases can estimate how much your case is worth.
Economic Damages After a Car Accident
You face many direct expenses and financial losses after a car accident—these are known as economic damages.
For example, you may recover:
- Medical expenses such as ambulance bills, emergency treatment, diagnostic imaging, follow-up appointments, surgeries, prescription medications, and occupational, physical, or speech therapy
- Anticipated future medical expenses such as ongoing therapy, anticipated surgeries or other procedures, or assistance with daily living
- Medical equipment such as crutches, braces, wheelchairs, motorized scooters, or other assistive devices
- Property damage expenses for your vehicle’s repair or replacement
- Home modifications such as ramps, accessible bathrooms, and widened doorways and halls
- Loss of income including wages, tips, and bonuses if you are out of work temporarily or permanently because of your injuries
Non-Economic Damages After a Car Accident
You may face other losses, such as pain and suffering, after your car accident. These intangible losses are known as non-economic damages. It might seem hard to put a dollar sign on your physical or emotional suffering, but a lawyer who handles accident cases like yours can estimate the value of these losses.
You may recover damages if you:
- Endured physical pain
- Suffer from chronic pain
- Require a long recovery period
- Are permanently disabled or disfigured
- Lost a limb or other body part
- Suffered emotional trauma
- Developed a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety
- Can no longer participate in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
- Have an overall reduced quality of life
Wrongful Death Damages After a Car Accident
O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 establishes which family members can seek damages in a wrongful death case. The surviving spouse and any surviving children may recover damages, which should be divided equally among the survivors (though the surviving spouse must not receive less than one-third of the total damages). According to O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5, a personal representative can seek damages if no one can bring a wrongful death action.
If you lost a loved one in a car accident caused by someone else, you may recover damages for:
- Medical expenses for the care your loved one received before they passed away
- Funeral and burial expenses such as fees for embalming or cremation, a casket or urn, memorial service, flowers, transportation, and more
- Full value of the life of the deceased, which encompasses the loss of income, benefits, services, care, companionship, counsel, and advice the decedent would have provided if they survived
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me Get Paid After a Car Accident?
While you can attempt to recover damages without any legal assistance, it’s wise to work with a professional who has experience handling car accident cases and dealing with insurance companies. Many people feel that it’s too risky to go through the legal process alone and prefer working with a lawyer.
Here are some ways that a lawyer may help with your case:
- Investigating the accident: Because you are only entitled to damages if the other party was at fault, demonstrating that the other party caused the accident is critical to your case. A lawyer will investigate the accident from your perspective, looking for evidence of negligence by the other party. The lawyer may use police reports, traffic camera footage, eyewitness statements, cell phone records, toxicology reports, and more to support your side of the story.
- Talking to insurance companies on your behalf: Talking to insurance claims representatives can be time-consuming and tricky. These reps are trained to sound friendly and sympathetic, but their true goal is to get you to admit fault. Don’t be fooled by insurance. If you do speak with them, avoid apologizing or saying anything that could be taken as an admission of fault. Otherwise, your lawyer can communicate with them for you.
- Estimating how much you should get paid: Your case is likely worth more than just your medical bills and car repairs. A lawyer will estimate the full value of your case, including your intangible, non-economic damages. If you underestimate the value of your case, you may leave money on the table and in the insurance company’s pocket. A solid estimate of your full losses can help you get paid the amount you truly deserve.
- Negotiating a settlement: Most of the time, both sides of a car accident case prefer to settle out of court, which is usually faster and easier for everyone. A lawyer can use their estimate of your damages to negotiate a settlement that fully compensates you for your losses.
- Filing a lawsuit: Most, but not all, cases can be settled out of court. Sometimes, the insurance provider or the at-fault party refuse to agree to a fair settlement. In these circumstances, a lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court.
Can I Afford a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Regardless of your financial situation, chances are that you can afford to work with a lawyer after a car accident. Most personal injury lawyers work on contingency, which means they take their fees directly from your insurance settlement or verdict award. You don’t have to pay any fees to get started—and if you lose, you pay nothing at all.
Because the lawyers accept the majority of risk with this setup, they carefully evaluate each case before deciding how to proceed and most only accept cases they have a strong chance of winning. Many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations to people who were injured in a car accident. This meeting is an ideal time to ask questions, learn about your legal options, and discuss your next steps.
Georgia Limits How Long You Have to Sue After a Car Accident
If you need to sue the responsible driver to seek compensation after a car accident, the state of Georgia gives you a limited amount of time to do so. According to O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to sue for personal injury and two years from the date your loved one died to sue for wrongful death.
Different legal deadlines apply if a municipality caused your accident.
These deadlines may apply to your case:
- O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5 allows you six months to file a lawsuit against a city
- O.C.G.A. § 36-11-1 allows you one yearto file a lawsuit against a county
- O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26allows you one year to file a lawsuit against the state
You must file your lawsuit before time runs out, or you forfeit your legal right to sue—even if you have compelling evidence to support your case. A personal injury lawyer who handles car accident cases can evaluate your case and let you know how much time you have to sue. To learn more about your next steps, including how to get paid after a car accident, contact an attorney today.