Were you injured and wondering “How can an Atlanta personal injury attorney help me?” Check out this educational blog, then give us a call!
Being injured by another person’s carelessness is frightening and can leave you with a pile of medical bills. If you’ve been seriously hurt due to negligence, you deserve justice.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to recover from an injury that has left you wondering if it’s time to call a lawyer. You may be in pain. You’ve probably missed work and are now stressed over paying your bills. You are likely wondering whether to turn to a personal injury attorney for help.
We are here to help. Our firm offers free legal consultations. Call our Atlanta personal injury attorney today.
Don’t worry about having the money to pay for answers you need up front. Just give us a call as soon as you can and schedule a free legal consultation.
The information on this page will give you an overview of your personal injury claim. We’ll start by showing you the many ways you can accidentally damage your claim’s value. Next, we’ll share a client’s personal injury claim story in hopes of answering additional questions you may have. Make sure you read to the end to get as much information as possible.
Common Personal Injury Claim Mistake
It’s important to be aware of the numerous ways you can jeopardize the value of your claim without realizing it. Read through the common mistakes below to help protect your claim.
It’s a Mistake to Skip the Medical Exam After the Accident
If you’re wondering how you could be seriously injured and not know it, it’s quite possible. When people experience traumatic events, the body tries to protect itself by going into “fight or flight” mode. This involves a surge of energy and strength. The hormones released into the bloodstream also have a dampening effect on pain.
Though temporary, the adrenaline responsible for these helpful effects can hang around in your system for up to eighteen hours. If you rely on how injured you “feel,” you may not realize you need a doctor until the next day; long enough to put your health at risk.
Delaying medical care even a few days can also put your claim at risk, because it weakens the connection between accident and injury (cause and effect), and to successfully bring a personal injury claim against someone, you’ll need evidence to connect your injuries to the accident.
If you are badly hurt and you waited a few days to confirm it with an exam, the insurance company may point out that you waited to see the doctor, so you might not be too badly hurt. Or, they may suggest you could have gotten hurt after the accident but are now trying to hit them up for compensation.
Prevent the insurance company from successfully devaluing your claim. The tighter the timeline between accident and exam, the stronger the proof they are connected.
It’s a Mistake to Ignore Your Doctor’s Treatment Plan
Many people assume the treatment plan they are given by their doctor is the equivalent of “busy work.” This is not true. Your treatment plan is a roadmap for how you can help yourself recover as quickly and completely as possible.
Treatment plans take all sorts of forms. Yours may include medication you need to take on a schedule. It might mean going to chiropractic appointments or doing physical therapy. It may advise you to limit exertion until you’ve recovered.
Whatever your treatment plan says you must do or not do, be sure to follow it. If you don’t and the insurance company finds out, they are likely to try and blame any difficulty in your recovery on you. This is unfair and it’s insulting, but if they succeed, it saves them money. Don’t give them the chance; be diligent about following your treatment plan.
It’s a Mistake to Allow the Insurance Company to Record Your Statement
Not long after your accident, you can expect an insurance adjuster to reach out to record “your side of the story.” They may imply this is just a formality, but necessary to get your claim processed.
What the insurance adjuster is really going for is a recording of you saying something that can be used to lower the value of your claim. While you would never do this intentionally, adjusters are well trained in eliciting information that is useful to the insurance company. You probably won’t even realize something you’ve said is helpful to them.
This in no way implies you are to blame for your injuries. Insurance companies get very creative in looking for ways to lower payouts.
It’s important to know you are not required to speak to the insurance company. Protect the value of your claim by referring insurance company communications to your Atlanta personal injury attorney.
It’s a Mistake to Procrastinate on Hiring An Attorney
When you’re recovering from serious injury, it makes sense that you may not be thinking about filing a claim just yet. Make sure, however, that you keep in mind the importance of getting started as soon as you possibly can.
No matter how long you have to file your claim, the longer you wait, the less evidence you’ll have. Accident scenes get cleared away. Witness memories fade. Evidence may even go missing. The sooner your attorney gets started gathering testimony and witnesses, the stronger your claim.
If you don’t plan to hire an attorney because you think handling your claim on your own will save you money, please read on.
Historically, people without lawyers are usually compensated many times less than those with lawyers, for several reasons. One is that personal injury lawyers know how to accurately assess your damages to make sure you don’t “leave money on the table” during compensation negotiations.
Another reason having a lawyer helps is a lawyer will see insurance company tactics for what they are to help prevent you from accidentally damaging your claim.
Hiring an attorney will also help you decide when to pass up a settlement offer and when one is worth accepting. As the injured party, you are far less likely to be objective and experienced in evaluating settlement offers. Without the context of having handled hundreds of claims, your fear of missing out may cause you to jump at a lowball offer your attorney could spot a mile away.
In addition, the implied threat of being sued by your lawyer can give the insurance company incentive to settle to keep your case out of court.
Without an attorney, the insurance company knows if no settlement is reached, you’re not likely to succeed at dragging them to trial, which can cause them to waste your time with denials and delays, hoping you’ll just go away.
On top of these benefits, your attorney can get your claim started while you’re still recovering from your injuries, reducing your stress and allowing you to focus on healing.
For the best chance at receiving the compensation you deserve, hire an experienced personal injury trial attorney.
It’s a Mistake Not to be Selective When Choosing an Attorney
Too many people make the mistake of grabbing the first name that pops up on Google for their area. It’s critical to make sure that whomever you hire has the experience and skill to win your claim.
Lawyers, like doctors, have many practice areas from which to choose. You wouldn’t hire a podiatrist to help you with a respiratory condition. Don’t turn to your neighbor’s real estate attorney for your personal injury claim.
In addition to hiring someone with a proven track record in personal injury, make sure you hire a trial attorney. Not all claims are resolved through settlement. If your case needs to go before a jury to bring you the compensation you deserve, you need to know your lawyer is up to the challenge.
The best person to handle your claim is a personal injury trial attorney.
Atlanta Personal Injury Client Story
We are sharing the client story below to help you better understand your claim. Though names and specifics have been changed to protect the privacy of our client, the value of the information remains. Be sure to read to the end to learn as much as you can. Then give us a call to discuss your specific claim.
On a cold winter day in Atlanta not too long ago, Martin Jones got a last-minute request to help pack meals at the homeless shelter where he regularly volunteered. Three people had called in sick, and Martin’s name was on the emergency call list. He grabbed his coat, hugged Aleta, his wife of almost 30 years, and headed downtown.
As Martin drove, he made a gratitude list in his head of all the ways he’d been blessed over the years. He’d once been homeless himself, and a patron of that very shelter. Back then he’d needed guidance, and he credits the shelter’s community resources for turning his life around.
Martin got assistance enrolling in an alternative high school and discovered his love for photography. He went on to enjoy 15 years as a professional photographer before opening his own small photography business.
Martin and Aleta had been able to buy a home of their own twelve years before, when their youngest was in middle school. They now had three happy, adult children, all living in Georgia.
Martin never forgot how that shelter had been a lifeline for him, and he’d volunteered there regularly since the year before he met his wife. In fact, that’s where he met Aleta; working in the meal prep line.
He smiled, thinking about how cute she looked in the apron and mesh cap all the volunteers wore. He’d been transfixed by her liquid amber eyes and bright smile. To this day she loves to tease him about how he forgot his own name when they were introduced, even giggling and calling him, “Uh…” from time to time.
Martin laughed out loud now in the car thinking about it, driving south on Center Street NW and turning right onto 10th. He was crossing Hemphill Avenue when a northbound car ran the light and hit him broadside.
Martin woke up in the hospital with Aleta beside him. He had three broken ribs, a broken arm, and a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
As usual, Martin’s first reaction was gratitude. He was grateful to be alive. He smiled and told Aleta as much as he tried to calm her. He reached for her left hand with his right as she cried.
Aleta smiled through her tears and assured him she was crying because she was relieved. Martin had not only survived, but that he recognized her.
The doctors had warned that memory loss could accompany a TBI injury. Sometimes it was temporary, but sometimes it was not. They’d come too far together to lose it in the blink of an eye to memory damage.
“Baby, I’m here, no matter what, but I’m so grateful to know that we’ll get through this together.
The kids arrived for visits the next day and began taking turns to allow Aleta time to go home to shower and nap. Martin figured things were going as well as he could hope for, considering the circumstances.
Martin was fortunate to have retained his ability to speak, read, and write; though his hands hadn’t stopped shaking enough to write very well. By the end of the week, Martin began to walk a little, too, but his legs refused to follow direction.
Ten days after the injury, Martin was still unable to walk without the physical therapist behind him, holding his weight and catching him as frequent sudden losses of balance and coordination sent him spiraling toward the floor.
The doctors remained hopeful that motor coordination would return to his legs and that his hands would steady. They said if further improvement was to be had, it may take as long as eighteen months to arrive. After that, it might be time to look into adjusting expectations and making adaptations.
After three weeks in the hospital, Martin was moved to a rehabilitation facility to continue physical therapy. The kids continued to switch off visiting to support their parents until Martin could come home.
Aleta knew Martin was determined to stay positive, but she could see the strain in his eyes; the worry that this may be as good as his healing could get. She knew he wondered if his hands would ever be steady enough to hold a camera again. And though they didn’t talk about it, she also knew he was as worried about paying the bills as she was.
The day after the move, the couple’s son Chris found his mom in the vending machine alcove outside Martin’s room crying. He sat her down on a bench by a glass wall looking into the garden. She shared her concerns with Chris, about money, about Martin’s morale. She had wanted to shield him from it, but as the oldest, he’d always been able to read her like a book.
Chris walked his mom to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee. He listened and gave her support. He also showed her The Gunnels Law Firm website and suggested Martin may be ready to consider a personal injury claim.
Personal injury attorney, Christopher D. Gunnels, met with Martin and Aleta the next day at the rehabilitation facility. Martin was seated beside his wife in a wheelchair. He offered a bright smile and a trembling hand as the attorney greeted them. The warmth emanating from the couple lit up the room.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer?
Martin’s first question was how much would it cost to hire The Gunnels Law Firm. “There is no upfront charge to retain the firm,” Attorney Gunnels said. “Since our firm uses a contingency fee model, we cover all case expenses from start to finish. That means the investigation, administration, research, and, if a trial becomes necessary, litigation costs. We only receive compensation when we bring your claim to a successful resolution.”
“Really?” Martin asked, another smile.
“Really,” said Chris Gunnels, smiling back.
How much is my personal injury claim worth?
“How much would my case be worth?” Martin asked.
“Case value is a question we get all the time, but it’s not one we can reliably answer at the very start of a claim. First, we’ll need to do an accident investigation, and then we’ll need to get clear on what your damages are.
“The investigation confirms the person who caused the accident did so with negligence; meaning had they behaved with more care for your safety, the accident could have been prevented. Proving this is necessary to winning your claim. The investigation also reveals all the responsible parties in your claim to ensure you aren’t shortchanged when asking for compensation.
“Sometimes more than one party is responsible for a person’s injuries. A good example of this is when a drunk driver injures someone after a bar knowingly served alcohol to that person when it was clear they were already intoxicated. In such a case, it’s possible that both the driver and the bar may be held responsible for injuries in the subsequent accident. The investigation is what enables us to sort out these issues within your claim.
“Discovering your damages is necessary to accurately estimate the value of your claim. We have to know your damages in order to request compensation from the insurance company of the party or parties who injured you.
“While we can begin the accident investigation right away, arriving at your damages will depend on you, Martin,” said Gunnels. “We’ll know your damages when you reach what is called ‘maximum medical improvement.’
“This is the highest level of recovery you can be expected to reach after your injuries. Reaching it will mean you’ve gotten back to ‘normal’ as much as can be hoped for.”
“You mean like whether I’m able to get out of this wheelchair and walk again?” Martin asked.
“That’s right,” said Gunnels. “It will also mean you’re through with surgeries and that the doctors have a clear understanding of what the future care of your injuries will involve.
“When you get to maximum medical improvement, we’ll know what your economic and non-economic damages are. That’s when we’ll know the value of your claim.”
“Well, that sounds reasonable,” said Martin as Aleta nodded in agreement.
How long will my claim take?
Aleta spoke up next. “So, am I understanding you correctly that my husband’s claim will take as long as it takes him to reach maximum medical improvement?”
“Yes, that’s the first factor the case timeline is going to depend on,” said Gunnels. “After we get that far, the rest will depend on whether or not the insurance company behaves reasonably.
“If they are fair-minded about Martin’s compensation and willing to work out an acceptable settlement, we can bring your claim to a resolution without further delay.
“If, however, they refuse to offer a reasonable settlement, we’ll sue them in court. Please don’t worry about this possibility, though. Our firm has a long and successful record of resolving personal injury claims both in and out of the courtroom,” said Gunnels.
“Yes, we’ve read your website,” said Aleta. “Your clients seem very taken with you,” she added, smiling.
“I sure hope so,” said Gunnels as they all laughed.
Is Georgia an At-Fault State?
“Now, as I understand it, Georgia is an at-fault state, correct?” Martin asked. When the lawyer nodded ‘yes,’ Martin asked, “What exactly does that mean when we file a claim?”
“Another great question. So, what’s the difference between a no-fault state and an at-fault state like ours?” Gunnels asked, rhetorically.
“The difference to you is that when a state has no-fault insurance, each driver’s own insurance covers their own damages but not the other driver’s, no matter who is at fault. There are exceptions in most states that do allow a person to sue beyond their own insurance coverage, but it usually requires very serious injuries be present, such as disfigurement or permanent loss of function in a significant way.
“Georgia’s insurance doesn’t work this way, though,” Attorney Gunnels continued. “With our at-fault designation, you are allowed to pursue compensation for your economic and non-economic damages so long as the other driver held the majority of responsibility for the accident.
“The officer that responds to the accident will issue a citation to designate who’s at fault, or stipulate that both parties are somehow at fault. When this happens, either one person will be completely at fault, both will be at fault equally, or each will carry a different percentage of fault.
“Our investigation will include looking into all of this, but do you happen to recall what the police report for your accident stipulated?” Gunnels asked.
“It said that the other guy ran the light and was 100 percent responsible for the accident,” said Aleta, as Martin nodded.
“Okay, that’s as cut-and-dried as the start of a claim gets. Even so, whomever you decide to hire to handle your claim, I urge you to make sure they’re a personal injury trial attorney. That way, you’re ready for any contingency, including a trial.
“It’s also not unheard of for insurance companies to agree to a settlement simply to avoid a showdown in court against a well-known trial lawyer,” said Gunnels. “I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s happened before. As I said, with a trial attorney on your side, you’ll be ready for anything.”
Martin and Aleta were satisfied with the information they received during their free legal consultation. They retained The Gunnels Law Firm and today we are happy to say Attorney Gunnels got Martin seven times the amount the insurance company initially offered.
Call Our Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a loved one were injured in Georgia, you may want to know how an Atlanta personal injury attorney can help you.
Contact experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Christopher Gunnels at The Gunnels Law Firm today to arrange a free consultation.
Let our experience work for you.
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