This article looks at a few key Georgia laws related to car accident insurance claims and lawsuits, including time limits for filing a suit, and how your claim might be affected if you’re found to be partially at fault for causing the accident. Read on for the details. (Note: If you’re looking for more in-depth information on car accident settlements and valuing a claim, visit our Car Accident Settlements section.)
Just like every other state, Georgia has enacted laws that limit the timeframe within which you may file a lawsuit after you’ve suffered some kind of harm. These restrictions are called “statutes of limitations,” and different causes of action have different deadlines. The relevant time limits to consider when filing a lawsuit over a car accident in Georgia are:
These time limits only apply to filing a lawsuit after a car accident; they have no bearing on filing an insurance claim. However, you’ll want to get the insurance process started early to make sure you have plenty of time under the statute of limitations in case you have to file a lawsuit later on. The threat of a lawsuit gives you significant leverage in negotiations with an insurance company, but if you have let the statute of limitations expire then there is little incentive for an insurance company to give you a fair offer.
Be aware that if your car accident involved the government in any way (a city bus rear-ended you, or the accident happened on government property, for example), then you have to deal with a different set of rules. You’ll need to file some sort of incident claim with the right government agency, and you’ll need to do it pretty soon after the accident, or you may lose your right to receive compensation. Learn more about claims against the government in Accidents Involving the Government.
State laws differ significantly in how they handle a situation in which more than one party is at fault for causing an accident. In Georgia, you can recover compensation from any party that is more at-fault than you are, but your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of your own liability. And if you’re 50 percent or more at fault for the accident, you can’t recover anything at all. In legalese, this means Georgia is a “modified comparative negligence” state.
So, just how could we expect to see this “modified comparative negligence” rule applied in the real world? Of course, this rule controls jury awards in civil lawsuits (if your case gets that far), but since an insurance claim adjuster negotiates in reference to how the case would fare in court, he or she will look to Georgia’s comparative fault rules when determining what your claim is worth. As should be apparent, there is no clear-cut rule for assigning a percentage to each party’s fault, so this is something that will either have to be negotiated with an insurance company or determined by a judge or jury.
An example should make this a little more concrete. Let’s say an oncoming driver makes an illegal left turn in front of you. You’re speeding and cannot stop fast enough. You have $10,000 in medical bills and vehicle damage. Because the other driver made an illegal turn, he was at fault, but it is also determined (via deliberation by a jury at civil trial) that you were negligent for speeding, and you’re therefore 20% responsible for the accident. Under Georgia’s comparative fault rules you would be entitled to recover only $8,000 ($10,000 damages reduced by 20%, which represents your fault). However, if you are found to be 50 percent or more at-fault, you would not be able to recover anything.
Georgia laws on car insurance may also come into play after a car accident. For everything you need to know about car insurance in Georgia -- including the minimum amounts of coverage required for registered vehicles in operation in the state -- check out our companion article Car Insurance Laws and Regulations in Georgia.