Personal Injury FAQ

How do personal injury attorneys get paid (contingency vs. hourly)?

Personal injury attorneys receive a percentage of settlements and verdicts obtained for their clients. A contingency fee agreement is signed by the lawyer and the client. The agreement is called a contingency fee agreement because the fee is contingent on the client recovering a settlement or verdict. If your settlement or verdict is not obtained, you do not owe the attorney anything.  There is no downside financial risk for you to hire a personal injury attorney.

What is a hospital lien? 

A hospital lien is a statutory lien that protects a hospital’s financial interest. O.C.G.A. § 44-14-470. Hospital liens may be filed when you suffer an injury and a third party is potentially liable. A hospital lien is not a lien against real property or the personal individually; it only attaches to a personal injury case.   

Hospital liens should not be filed when you have health insurance. Unfortunately, hospitals frequently disregard health insurance when you receive treatment resulting from of a car accident. This is not proper and it costs injured car accident victims huge sums of money each year.   

We encourage you to send copies of your health insurance cards to hospitals via certified mail, return receipt requested. This eliminates a hospital’s argument that it did not know a client had health insurance.

How much does a personal injury attorney cost?

Case costs, also called case expenses, are advanced by personal injury attorneys. Common case expenses include charges for medical records, postage, court reporting, court filing, and expert testimony. Because personal injury attorneys advance case expenses, and repayment of case expenses are contingent on recovering a settlement or verdict, it costs you nothing out of pocket to hire a personal injury lawyer.

Following a car accident where I wasn’t at fault, do I get a rental car and for how long? 

We encourage you to carry rental coverage on their car insurance policies because getting a rental car from the at-fault driver’s insurance company is often time consuming and difficult. Insurance companies are allowed a reasonable amount of time to investigate claims before making any payments. In general, it takes about two weeks. Even if the other party was found at fault by the police, insurance companies will perform their due diligence before agreeing to pay any claims, including a rental car. 

If you have rental coverage with your insurance company, you may get a rental on the day of the crash. Once the at-fault insurance company finishes its investigation, your insurance company will recover the rental expense directly from the at fault driver’s insurance. 

Insurance companies offer rental coverage until the property damage claim is resolved. However, please note that insurance companies consider the claim resolved when a check is issued. If your car is a total loss, it is a good idea to start car shopping early. If your car is not a total loss, rental coverage is provided until the vehicle is repaired.

The offer on my car is too low, how do I get fair value?

Under Georgia law, a totaled vehicle is considered a property damage claim. Damages are awarded based on the fair market value of a vehicle. Keep in mind that fair market value is based on a vehicle’s market value the moment before the impact, not the initial purchase price. Insurance companies use proprietary software, which is not accessible to the public, to calculate a vehicle’s value. Kelly Blue Book online is free, easy to access, and a good starting place to determine your vehicle’s value.

If the insurance company’s offer seems low after researching your vehicle’s value online, verify that all optional equipment was considered. Some common examples of factory options include sunroofs, power seats, leather seats, and navigation systems. The overall condition of individual vehicles also influence the amount of the offers. If a vehicle was in great condition prior to the car accident, it will be more valuable. Likewise, a vehicle in poor condition will be deemed less valuable.

A word of caution: do not sign a property damage release before talking to a personal injury attorney; the release may release other valuable claims such as a bodily injury claim.

I was in a car accident and not at fault. Should I use my health insurance?

Yes. Please see our “Car Accident Injury FAQ” for more in-depth information this issue.

Following a car accident where I wasn’t at fault, I’m hearing from collection agencies. Why?

Car insurance companies do not pay bills as they are due, and medical providers do not wait to be paid. If you have health insurance, provide it to the medical billing collections company. If you do not have health insurance, our firm will send collection companies forbearance letters. A forbearance letter asks the company to stop its collection efforts until the injury case is resolved.

I lost personal property (iPhone, child’s car seat, etc.) in the wreck – how do I get paid?

Damaged or destroyed personal property is compensable under a property damage claim. It is important to have proof of ownership of the property. Also, take photographs of the damaged or destroyed property. If possible, save the property. An insurance company may require a photo of the damaged property, a receipt showing purchase of the property, and a demand for payment. 

How long does it take to get paid following a car accident?

Resolving a personal injury case does not happen quickly. In general, the duration of a claim depends on how much medical treatment a client must endure. Do not rush medical care. It is critical that clients receive all medical care necessary before there is an attempt to resolve the case. Any settlement requires a release of the at-fault driver. Once a release is signed, it ends all claims related to your accident. An experienced injury lawyer will seek the best result, not the fastest result. 

What do I do if I get in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have insurance? 

Uninsured drivers are common in Atlanta. In fact, they’re so common that HS Law has a dedicated FAQ addressing this topic under our Car Accident FAQ page.

Someone hit my car and drove off (hit and run). What should I do?

First, contact the police. A police report will document what happened and provide proof of the loss in the event insurance is identified. For more information please see our Car Accident FAQ page.

How do I handle an inaccurate police report?

Only the investigating officer can correct or change an inaccurate police report. It is important to contact the investigating officer as soon as the inaccuracy is identified. Most police reports are available within three to five business days. Many reports can be found on Buy Crash.  It is an online service that allows people to request reports and receive them via email. Some cities and counties do not use Buy Crash. If this is the case, the agency that investigated will need to be contacted directly.

Police officers investigate numerous collisions each week. Speaking with the investigating officer sooner rather than later increase the odds that he or she will recall details. Also, only people involved in an accident can request changes or amendments to accident reports. This means that an injury attorney cannot call and request changes for a client. However, it does not mean that an injury victim cannot consult with an injury lawyer prior to contacting the officer. In fact, we recommend reviewing an accident report with a lawyer before taking any further steps.

I was on the job when I got into a car / truck accident – should I use workers comp or car insurance?

The short answer is workers compensation, but that is not always the correct answer. Workers compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to an employee injured in the course and scope of his employment. Workers compensation is not concerned about fault. In other words, an injured employee may qualify for comp even in the event the employee caused his own injury. Conversely, car insurance applies when a person has been injured due to the negligence of another. In does not necessarily exist to compensate the injured party but rather a car insurance policy provides indemnity to the negligent party for the damages suffered by the injured party. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule as someone injured by another’s negligence may, in certain circumstances, pursue his own coverage in the event the wrongdoer is uninsured or underinsured. 

It is difficult to cover the complexity of this topic in a simple FAQ. If you have been injured in a car accident while on the job, call one of our experienced lawyers immediately for advice tailored to your case.  Consultations are always free of charge.

Do I have to file a lawsuit / will I have to go to court?

The vast majority of cases (more than 90%) are resolved prior to “going to court,” so the odds are that your claim will settle before litigation becomes necessary. Many cases are settled after a demand is presented to an insurance carrier and before filing a lawsuit. That usually saves time, money, expense, and unwanted aggravation for all parties involved. However, it is not always the best option. In certain cases, litigation is the best course of action. 

It should be noted that filing a lawsuit and “going to court” are not one in the same. A lawsuit begins by filing a pleading with the Court called a Complaint. Filing a Complaint is the first step in the litigation process that may ultimately conclude with a trial. However, filing a lawsuit does not automatically result in a trial or necessitate a court appearance. Many lawsuits are resolved prior to trial; in fact, the vast majority of lawsuit are settled before trial. 

Hiring an injury attorney is the best way to ensure that you are taking the right course of action for your case. A knowledgeable and experienced injury attorney will offer his or her professional opinion. Ultimately, choosing to settle, litigate, or go to trial is the client’s decision. An injury attorney should not (and cannot ethically) force a client to accept a settlement, litigate a case, or take a case to trial.

Will my insurance rates go up if I bring a claim?

No. Now, if you caused an accident and an insurance company had to pay a claim due to your negligence, then the chances are high your rates will increase. However, if you are the victim of another’s negligence, your rates will not increase by pursuing a claim for your injuries and damages. Georgia has two statutes that address this issue: O.C.G.A. § 33-9-40 and O.C.G.A. § 33-24-45(e)(3)(C). These statutes impose strict regulations prohibiting insurers from increasing rates or discontinuing coverage except if certain exceptions are met. The statues are addressed in depth under our Car Accident FAQ page.