Where to get legal advice for at-fault accident in Georgia?
June 19, 2016 12:53 AM   Subscribe

Last year we were in a car accident and at fault. We are in Georgia. No injuries were reported on the scene, but we recently found out that there is an open medical claim from this accident. We had crappy coverage, so I'm guessing the claim will be over our maximum injury coverage. We've never been through this before and are pretty anxious. Since our insurance company is not a resource for legal advice, what kind of lawyer or other advocate should I seek to understand and best cooperate with this process?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (1 answer total)
IANAGAA, and IANYL, but perhaps this general info will help you get oriented.

When you're insured and the thing you're insured for happens, then the insurance company is on the hook for dealing with it, at least up to your policy limit. Insurance companies hate to pay out money at least as much as they love to get money from policyholders, so their overriding goal is to do as little as possible and spend as little as possible.

In an at-fault crash, if there's clear fault and significant damages, the insurer may want to bums-rush the injured person to settle out right away (thereby cutting off future payouts). But if there's a question about fault, or it might not be enough damage to bother with, the insurer may just wait-and-see (since it's free to do that). Maybe the other guy won't sue, or maybe he'll miss the statute of limitations date, and the insurer will get off scot-free.

If the other guy does sue, or credibly threatens to do so, then your insurer is generally obliged to defend you. So they'll hire a lawyer (probably one of a group of insurance-defense lawyers that they use for lots of similar cases) and that will be your lawyer for dealing with the matter. There's lots of rules about his responsibilities & etc., and you may not be very involved, but the important thing to understand is that this lawyer wants to:
  1. Make money himself by billing time on the case
  2. Keep the insurance company happy by not billing too much time or otherwise screwing up the case
  3. Grind the injured guy down so he'll take the minimum amount possible (ideally $0)
  4. Get the insurance company off the hook for the policy limit or less
  5. Get you off the hook by winning or settling the case
If the injured person's claim against you can't be wrapped up for the policy amount, then you may be on the hook for any overage. The injured guy (or his lawyer) will start looking at you to decide whether you've got anything that makes it worth trying to recover more. If you're rich, have properties, or make a lot of money, it might be worth it. If not, it might not.

Either way, if it looks like your policy limit won't satisfy the injured guy, you might want to start talking to a personal-injury lawyer. They normally operate on the other side of the case, but they'll know what's going on and can advise you how to protect your interests. (You probably don't want an insurance-defense lawyer, because their bread-and-butter is working for insurance companies, and their M.O. is to bill, bill, bill.) You can probably find a PI lawyer who will advise you on an hourly basis, and a few hours over the first part of the case will probably do a lot to relieve your anxiety.

You may need a different lawyer if your insurance policy gets tapped out and it looks like you're going to get sued individually, but having somebody you pay to look out for you is not a bad idea if you have concerns about your policy limits, if you have a lot of accessible resources, and/or if you have a lot of stress over not knowing what's going on.

This is a pretty broad-brush (and pessimistic) view of things, but I hope it helps give you a picture of who's involved and what their motivations are. A local PI attorney (as if you had been injured in an accident) is probably the right kind of lawyer to look for. And don't be shy to talk to a few of them -- you don't have to hire the first lawyer you meet. You'll be paying the guy, so hire somebody whom you're comfortable with, and who explains things in a way that's helpful for relieving your "unknown process" anxiety.
posted by spacewrench at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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