FAQWhat is personal injury?

The phrase “personal injury” can mean multiple things, depending on the context. A personal injury, at its most basic sense, is when an individual suffers harm to their body or mind.  When this injury is caused by the tortious act of another, a tort to compensate the injured party may result.

There are many different torts that may be asserted to compensate an injured party, depending on the circumstances of the case.  The most common example of a tort is a claim for negligence.  This broad category covers a vast array of different types of claims. For example, if a person is injured in a car accident by a driver who has breached the standard of care, then the injured party may sue the other driver for negligent operation of the motor vehicle. The standard would require that the injured party prove that the other driver had operated the motor vehicle in a less safe manner than an ordinarily prudent person driving a car would have under those same or similar circumstances.

There are many other torts that can arise from such a case.  If, for instance, the driver had violated a statute, such as “failure to maintain lane,” a claim of “negligence per se” may be asserted. This means that the driver has violated a legal standard specifically set via statute.  If the driver was operating another person’s car and the owner of the car should have known the driver was incompetent, such as entrusting an intoxicated person with a vehicle, then the owner may be liable for negligent entrustment.  The facts or circumstances vary.

The field of personal injury is wide ranging. From torts for negligent security, when an apartment complex or business owner fails to protect its customers from criminal acts, to a claim against a bar owner for supplying alcohol in violation of dram shop laws. If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury at the hands of another, it is important to have a qualified attorney review your case to determine if a viable tort may be asserted.

What is a personal injury lawyer?

A “personal injury lawyer” is a lawyer that has experience litigating personal injury lawsuits.  In law, unlike in medicine, there are no specialized residencies that provide a focused field of expertise.  Instead, a lawyer may advocate that they have experience it certain practice areas, such as personal injury, based on their prior cases.

A personal injury lawyer, such as those at Carr & Weatherby, devotes a significant amount of time litigating personal injury cases.  It is important to hire a reputable personal injury lawyer because they develop a wealth of knowledge through experience that a lawyer in an unrelated field may not possess.  There are unique rules, regulations, and case opinions that govern torts for personal injury.  An experienced attorney can help navigate these complex issues.

For example, in general, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Georgia is 2 years from the date of the incident.  O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.  This statute of limitations may be extended or reduced, or a different statute may apply, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

What is personal injury insurance?

Personal injury insurance is often a misnomer.  In the insurance context, personal injury insurance is a type of policy a person or business may purchase to protect against certain types of personal injury lawsuits that may be brought against them.  There are certain types of policies that a claimant may possess which provides coverage in the event the tortfeasor has inadequate limits. The most common type of policy is “uninsured motorist coverage” or “UM Coverage.”  These policies are an endorsement to a standard car insurance policy, which provide coverage for a driver that is injured by another driver with little-or-no insurance limits.

Insurance plays an important part in resolving any personal injury suit. For an injured party, health insurance may afford coverage for medical bills.  After the suit is resolved, the health insurer may assert a lien on the proceeds to recoup payment. Also, liability insurance of a defendant may provide coverage for the personal injury recovery.

How long do personal injury cases take?

There is no set time limit for a personal injury case.  Some cases take a matter of months from the date of the accident, while the vast majority of cases take years.  As detailed above, the statute of limitations for personal injury actions in Georgia is generally 2 years from the date of the accident. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.  This means that your lawsuit must be filed before this date.  During the time period pre-suit, a lawyer may attempt to resolve the case pre-suit through negotiations. If these fail, the lawyer may prepare the case to be filed.

Once the lawsuit is filed and served, Georgia State Court rules provide for 6 months of “discovery.” Federal courts in Georgia provide for 4 months of “discovery.”  The discovery period may be extended or shortened as agreed by counsel. After the discovery period, there may be dispositive motions by either side asking the Court to issue a ruling in favor of one side as a matter of law. This can be a multi-month process. Generally, after the motions are decided, the case will be set for trial.  Trial dockets vary from court-to-court.

Litigation naturally moves at a snail’s gait.  At Carr & Weatherby, we pride ourselves on pushing a case to its resolution whenever possible. We discuss our cases at our weekly firm meeting, strategizing as to how to obtain a quick and reasonable resolution.

When to hire a personal injury lawyer?

It is highly recommended that any plaintiff or defendant hire a lawyer at the earliest opportunity.  There are many “gotchas” in law and in the field of personal injury in particular. If you are not aware of the rules governing these types of cases, it can be very difficult to navigate.

What is a deposition in a lawsuit?

In a civil lawsuit, a deposition is a discovery tool that is permitted by the rules of civil practice.  Either side can depose potential witnesses, including the parties to the lawsuit, via a deposition. There are two main types of depositions: (1) discovery and (2) trial. In a discovery deposition, the witness is deposed for the purpose of uncovering facts or opinions the witness may have. In a trial deposition, the witness is deposed for the purpose of preserving testimony for trial.

A deposition is transcribed by a court reporter who is present for the questioning. Also present are the witness, the lawyers for the parties, and (if they decide) the parties to the lawsuit. A judge and a jury are not present for a deposition.

A deposition is very important because it helps the parties understand the facts of the case and prepare for settlement and trial.

How many personal injury cases go to trial?

Not many. The vast majority of personal injury cases are resolved via settlement. Many are resolved pre-suit. Others are resolved after discovery in a lawsuit, through a mediation or negotiation of counsel.  Still other cases may be resolved via motion, determined by the court.

Although not many personal injury cases are tried, it is still important to hire an attorney who is prepared to try your case. This is because a trial of the case is the measure by which all cases are resolved. In settlement discussions, the ultimate issue that is discussed is the likely outcome of a trial based on the facts of the case.

What is PIP insurance?

PIP insurance is a type of coverage that may be added on to your motor vehicle insurance policy. It provides coverage for medical bills and, in some cases, other incidental expenses like lost wages.

What happens after a deposition in a personal injury case?

A deposition is a discovery tool, in which you or the opposing side is permitted the opportunity to examine a potential witness for relevant information.  After a deposition, the deponent is generally provided 30 days to review their transcript and correct certain errors. After the 30 day period, the deposition is finalized and the testimony preserved. The deposition is utilized by counsel to evaluate the case and prepare for trial.  At trial, the deposition can be used to present testimony to the jury or for impeachment purposes.