Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What should I do if I am in a car wreck?
1. STOP - Failure to stop is against the law. If possible, leave the vehicles in the position they were when they stopped.
2. MEDICAL ATTENTION - Call 911 for an ambulance so anyone injured can get appropriate medical treatment.
3. SAFETY - Take precautions to avoid further collisions by using flares, flags, auto lights, flashers and the like.
4. POLICE - Call local police or highway patrol and request a report to be written. Never agree to waive a police report.
5. INFORMATION - Obtain the name, address, phone number, vehicle registration and tag number, driver's license number and insurance information on the other driver.
6. STATEMENT - Do NOT make any statements to anyone from the collision except to the police officer. DO NOT ADMIT FAULT!
7. WITNESSES - Obtain the name, address, phone number and comments of all witnesses. If they will not give this information, at least write down their tag number.
8. NOTES - Make written notes. Note any admissions of fault by the other driver or witnesses. If you have a tape recorder, use it.
9. DON'T LEAVE - Never leave the scene until police arrive and excuse you.
10. PICTURES - If you have a camera take pictures of the scene, all involved cars and parties.
11. ATTORNEY - Call an attorney as soon as possible to advise you of your rights.
Q: Should I negotiate my own claim?
In over 21 years of practice, I have seen bright, articulate folks mangle an insurance claim, that is, shoot themselves in the foot. Sometimes they fail to take action on behalf of a child in a timely fashion and do nothing but increase the profits of a corporate wrongdoer and their insurance company. Here are some of my tips:
A. Understand Claims Adjusters: Claims Adjusters are professionals. They are trained to negotiate by tremendously experienced and qualified psychologists, company insiders and company lawyers. They are trained to intimidate you, to hassle you, and use every psychological technique to encourage you to settle for the lowest amount possible and discourage people from using the services of a good lawyer.
Here are some basic rules of dealing with a claims adjuster:
1. Never give an insurance company an oral statement unless you are required to do so by the terms of a binding contract you signed. If you do, you will regret it. Oral statements can only hurt you and help the insurance company. You cannot beat them at their game. It is best not to try.
2. Claims Adjusters want you to continue negotiating; the longer you negotiate with them the higher the probability of settlement with the insurance company. By definition, you are not a lawyer and the insurance company knows you cannot file a lawsuit. They have nothing to fear. My experience clearly demonstrates that lawyers negotiate settlements for substantially more than is ever offered you by a claim's adjuster.
3. Know how to negotiate. The first rule of negotiation is: Know what you want, and, once you decide what you want, don't vary. The second rule of negotiation is: Never bid against yourself. Once you set a number, never ever, ever give a lower number until the insurance company makes a response with an offer. Do not listen to what the insurance adjuster says, only to the number he offers. Think about the numbers that are offered.
B. Deadlines: Please remember that there are deadlines or statutes of limitations for all claims. These statutes vary. I cannot tell you specifically when your statute expires, but generally speaking, and there are lots of exceptions to this rule, for personal injuries suffered in a Georgia automobile crash, the statute is two years from the date of the injury. There are many exceptions. If the Defendant is a government body or entity, some notices sometimes must be given as soon as 6 months. Please do not take this paragraph as legal advice as to when your claim is barred. You should consult a lawyer.
C. Preserve Evidence: By preserving evidence, I mean take plenty of pictures of the car, document your medical expenses, keep all of the medical bills in a file. Keep an account of your lost wages, keep a diary of how this injury affected you. Keep a list and copies of your prescriptions.
D. Why do I Need A Lawyer: Lawyers assist you in attaining a full, fair, settlement for your claims. For a wrongful injury, we seek to recover the only thing the law allows, a full, fair and just compensation in monetary damages.
E. Can I Afford An Attorney?: Richard Jones handles injury cases on a contingency fee. That is, our fee is contingent upon us recovering monetary damages from you, either through settlement or a trial. In this way we share the risk. If we recover nothing, we are paid no fee. We also offer free consultation.
There are costs and expenses which are usually paid by the client and are separate from and in addition to the contingency fee. We try to resolve your claims as quickly as possible in order to put money into your wallet.
Contingent attorney's fees refers only to those fees charged by an attorney for their legal services. Such fees are not permitted in all types of cases. Court costs and other additional expenses of legal action usually must be paid by the client.