Personal injury is the wrongful injury of one person caused by the fault of another. A Georgia personal injury claim can seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and potentially punitive damages to punish the offender. Clayton County personal injury attorney Shane Smith answers general questions about Georgia personal injury law:
- Should a victim accept a check from the at-fault driver's insurance company?
A victim should not accept a check from the at-fault driver or his insurance company as this may be interpreted as a settlement acceptance and may prevent the victim from receiving additional compensation. A victim should consult with a Clayton County personal injury attorney before signing any release or accepting any money.
A payment is usually not negotiated and made until the conclusion of accident-related medical treatment and after a physician determines future medical needs. The victim is able to calculate actual medical expenses and future therapy or costs by waiting until the doctor issues a release.
Insurance representatives may encourage victims to accept a one-time payment or to sign a settlement without the use of an attorney. Accident victims should disregard this advice as it may jeopardize the right to a full and fair recovery. Contacting the Law Office of Shane Smith will ensure that a victim receives reasonable compensation for his injuries. Once a victim has secured an attorney's services the victim should not talk to the at-fault driver, the driver's attorneys or his insurance representatives. All communication with anyone representing the at-fault driver should be done by the victim's attorney.
- How long does it take before an accident victim receives money from the case?
In an injury case this is frequently determined by the length of time the victim needs to heal. A victim would not want to settle a claim until he has received the necessary medical care for his injuries. The physician will release the accident victim when he reaches MMI. Once the physician has released the victim or his future accident-related medical expenses can be determined then a settlement amount can be negotiated.
- What is an MMI?
A physician will conclude treatments with a victim when he has reached maximum medical improvement or MMI. This is the medically determined point where a victim's health has stabilized and he is as healthy as he can be. This may not be the same health level as the victim enjoyed before the accident. If this is the victim's reality then the physician may assign the accident victim a permanent impairment rating as determined by American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines. Auto insurance companies may seek the permanent impairment rating as part of the settlement or trial proceedings.
- What is intentional misconduct?
Intentional misconduct refers to conscious or willful disregard of the rights and safety of another. It means conduct by a person with knowledge at the time of the conduct that the conduct is harmful to the health or wellbeing of another person. It includes battery (an intentional act causing harmful or offensive contact with another), false imprisonment (wrongful detention) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (outrageous behavior resulting in severe emotional distress).
- What is a contingency fee?
Law firms frequently handle personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis which means the firm's fee and court costs are deducted from the settlement amount. If there is no recovery then the firm receives no fee. A client typically must pay court costs regardless of the case's outcome. These include filing fees, medical records costs and copy costs for obtaining police records or deposition transcripts. The Law Office of Shane Smith handles personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis and provides a free initial legal consultation.
- Do all personal injury claims go to trial?
Most personal injury claims are settled before they go to trial. Often, settlements are made between the insurance company for the party that is at fault and the victim. Settlements avoid trial expenses and delays and may lead to a higher net recovery when deducting trial preparation costs. However, if an acceptable settlement offer is not made then it may be necessary for the case to be tried in court.
An experienced Clayton County personal injury attorney will pursue a case to get fair compensation for the victim. Call the Law Office of Shane Smith at 770-487-8999 to schedule a free legal consultation.