Societies without laws are also societies without rights. For all of its flaws, the justice system here in the U.S. actively tries – and admittedly occasionally fails – to arrive at justice for the victims of crime and the victims of negligence. Civil courts are where those injured by someone else’s negligence may pursue injury claims and seek compensation.

If you are injured by someone else’s carelessness in the state of Georgia – in a traffic accident or by some other type of negligence – have an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney explain your legal rights and options.

Unlike criminal cases, personal injury cases do not result in criminal penalties. Defendants instead are found liable or not liable, rather than guilty or not guilty, of negligence. In personal injury cases, injury victims (called “plaintiffs”) seek compensation from defendants by proving that defendants were negligent in a way that caused an injury or injuries – that is, by proving a defendant was liable.

A personal injury case seeks to answer two questions: Was a defendant responsible for an injury or injuries? If so, precisely what are the damages? If a plaintiff in a personal injury case in Georgia can prove both liability and damages, that plaintiff is entitled to full compensation for pending and future medical expenses, lost wages and lost future earning capacity, and any other injury-related losses and damages.

Below are several of the frequently asked questions – and some general answers – about personal injury claims. However, because every case is different, you should seek a personal injury attorney’s advice regarding any specific injury claim.

HOW DOES A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM BEGIN?

When an accident happens and you’re injured, you need to act immediately to protect yourself. There will not be an attorney to advise you at the scene of an accident. Whether it’s a traffic crash, a slip-and-fall at a supermarket, an injury caused by a defective appliance, or any other accident scenario caused by someone else’s negligence, think clearly and take the following steps. Your future could depend on it.

If you’ve been injured – or if anyone else has – summon medical help first and at once. Even if you don’t “feel” like you’ve been hurt, have a medical checkup right away, within 24 hours if possible. Sometimes accident victims sustain latent injuries – particularly brain injuries – that cannot be detected and do not emerge as serious medical conditions until days or weeks later. At some point, you may need the medical documentation that a medical exam provides.

At any accident scene, take pictures and try to get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. After a traffic crash, summon the police and make sure that you’ll be able to obtain a copy of their accident report. You’ll also need to trade names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information with the other driver. Confirm as quickly as you can that the information you’ve been given is accurate.

If you are injured at work, make sure that your injury is reported to your manager or supervisor. Your employer probably has a standard reporting procedure that should be followed. If you are injured on private property, report your injury to the owners or the manager at once.

In the Metro Atlanta area, after you’ve been examined by a healthcare professional, if you’re not certain how to proceed from there, arrange to speak with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney.

HOW IS AN INSURANCE CLAIM HANDLED?

Notify your automobile insurance company about any traffic accident, and if the other driver was at-fault, notify that driver’s auto insurance company that you may be filing a claim against it. Other kinds of accidents may involve homeowner’s insurance or commercial liability policies. At any point after an accident of any kind with injuries, you can obtain advice from an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney.

A thoroughgoing investigation of your accident and injury is imperative for establishing causation, negligence, and liability. Let an experienced personal injury lawyer help you compile the evidence that you’ll need to file an insurance claim and receive the compensation you need.

If you’ve been injured, don’t negotiate with an insurance company by yourself. That may be fine, for example, if you’ve suffered only vehicle or property damage, but your health and your future are too important.

An insurance company is likely to offer you a settlement amount that is substantially less than the amount that your personal injury claim is actually worth. Moreover, if you sign any insurance documents before consulting a personal injury attorney, it’s possible that you could sign away your right to file a lawsuit in the future.

That’s a huge mistake, especially if you’ve suffered injuries that have not fully healed or may involve extended medical complications. Before you settle any injury claim, fully understand the extent of the damages, and consult your attorney.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR FILING AN INJURY CLAIM?

In the state of Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years. But if you are injured, don’t wait two years. The wisest move is to put a good personal injury attorney on your case from the start. That’s important, because evidence in these cases deteriorates over time and sometimes even disappears.

The memories of witnesses fade, and over time, witnesses can move and become difficult to locate. If the defendant in your case is the State of Georgia or a local government or government agency, you must act even sooner, and the government or government agency must be notified within twelve months that you intend to take legal action.

Most personal injury cases in Georgia never become courtroom trials. About ninety percent of these cases are resolved by the attorneys for each side through out-of-court negotiations. Nevertheless, if you have been injured by another person’s negligence in the state of Georgia, you’ll need a seasoned personal injury attorney who is both a top negotiator and a skilled trial lawyer.

If your claim prevails, you will be paid “damages” after the negotiations or trial. Damages reimburse injured accident victims for current and future medical expenses and for current and future lost wages, physical pain, and emotional suffering, and for all other losses related to your accident and injury. The specific amount of the damages a victim receives will depend on the nature and extent of the victim’s injury or injuries.