Frequently Asked Questions
Many of the answers to these FAQs require a lawyer to review the precise facts of your situation. The answers below are general in nature but will hopefully provide you some idea of the considerations involved. Since our law practice is based mostly on issues of personal injury and insurance bad faith, we have focused on providing information in relation to those areas of law.
Do I have a case?
This depends on whether either state or federal law recognizes a legal cause of action based on the facts of your situation. State law predominates in this consideration because federal law is mostly covers civil rights, discrimination and environmental issues. One of the first questions is whether you were injured on the job. If so, and your injury was caused by your fault or the fault of your employer, then you may be limited to a workers compensation claim in which your remedies are limited. However, you may have a personal injury action against another contractor or driver for another company.
Whether you have a personal injury action depends on whether the person or company that caused your injury had a duty to avoid injury to you. Also, the at-fault party may have an immunity granted by the state legislator, such as has been granted to counties in most circumstances. The breach of the duty must have caused your injury. This issue is commonly referred to as causation. Then you must have adequate damages to sustain a lawsuit. Smaller claims can be handled in the Magistrate Court. In summary, you must have breach of a duty, causation and damages.
What can I recover in a workers compensation claim?
Georgia’s workers compensation system is a no-fault system with the primary issue being whether your injury was work related. If so, then you can recover a portion of your average weekly wage (66%) and medical expenses. Your medical treatment is controlled by your authorized treating physician, who is often chosen by your employer. All medical treatment must be authorized by your employer. If you have a permanent disability, then you may recover for permanent partial disability based on a formula established by the legislator that multiplies your compensation rate (ie. 66% of your average weekly wage) by a number of weeks determined by the degree of permanent impairment that the doctors established. You cannot recover for pain and suffering or loss of future income.
What is an insurance bad faith claim?
These claims can arise under several situations, but the primary one that people are concerned about if when their insurance company denies a claim to pay for repairs of their personal or real property, such a vehicle or a house. In that circumstance, the insurance policy, which is the contract of coverage, must be reviewed to determine the scope of coverage and any exclusions. If a covered claim is being denied, then a letter must be sent to the insurance company notifying them of your claim. If you still do not receive relief, then you can file suit for both breach of contract and insurance bad faith. Bad faith occurs when an insurance company denies a claim without good cause.
Will I have to go to trial?
Usually, we first try to settle your case before filing a lawsuit and requesting a trial. Settlement is quicker and easier than filing a lawsuit. However, often cases cannot be settled for fair compensation without filing a lawsuit. A claim can be settled after a lawsuit is filed. Often the parties agree to mediate the case in an attempt to settle prior to a jury trial. However, when that fails, a jury trial is the only resolution. The U.S. Constitution, 7th Amendment, allows all citizens to request a jury trial.
How long will my case take?
The process of reaching a trial date typically takes at least a year. The process is long because all of the parties are entitled to due process, which involves the collection of evidence, notice to all parties of depositions, motions and court rulings. The opposing party may file motions to dismiss your claims and the Court will have to resolve these issues before your case can proceed to trial.
What will I have to do if I file a lawsuit?
You will have to work with the lawyers in providing facts so that an initial determination can be made on whether you have a legal claim. Be sure to provide all documentation, photographs, and the names and contact information of any witnesses. Save everything. Then you will have to work with the lawyer’s office on answering Interrogatories, which are written questions exchanged between lawyers for preliminary information such as medical treatment, contentions of what happened and similar information. Then you may need to appear at a deposition where the opposing lawyer asks detailed questions about your job history, past medical treatments, present medical treatments, facts of the occurrence and other relevant information. Your lawyer can object to irrelevant information. Finally, you will have to appear at mediation(if conducted) or at trial. Trials can take days or weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
How much is my case worth?
There are too many variables to give a precise answer, although in general, if you have a personal injury case, the more serious your injury, the more compensation you may recover. They type of case you have also determines the available compensation. For instance, workers’ compensation limits an injured worker to a portion of his/her usual income, with an upper limit that the legislative occasionally increases, and medical treatment controlled by the employer’s insurance company.