car wreck attorney mistakes

Top 10 Mistakes Attorneys Make in Car Wreck Cases

Many attorneys handle car wreck cases but too many do it poorly. If you are an attorney, please don’t make these mistakes. If you are a car wreck victim, make sure your attorney is not making any of these mistakes. The most common mistakes I see are:

1. Failing to Notify All UM Carriers About the Wreck:

In Georgia, car wreck victims must promptly notify their own insurance company about the wreck to preserve their right to bring an underinsured motorist claim. Many attorneys fail to do this which can lead to the denial of benefits to their clients.

2. Failing to Identify All Sources of Insurance:

Many attorneys fail to identify all sources of insurance that may cover their client’s damages. For example, UM coverage may be available if the injured party lives with a “resident relative” who has UM coverage under a separate policy of insurance. Many attorneys do not know about this and fail to access this coverage. In cases where the at-fault party does not have enough insurance to cover the damages, this can be a catastrophic error. All “umbrella” or “excess” coverage must also be identified. In serious injury cases, it is vitally important to verify whether the at-fault party has “umbrella” or “excess” coverage over and beyond what may be available on the primary policy.

3. Failing to Settle a Case Pursuant to a Limited Liability Release:

O.C.G.A. § 33-24-41.1 allows a claimant to release the at-fault party from personal liability in exchange for payment of his or her insurance limits, except to the extent there is other liability coverage or underinsured motorist coverage available. If the claimant signs a general release (as opposed to a limited liability release), the claim is finished and the claimant will not be able to recover from any other available liability coverage or from his or her own underinsured motorist carrier.

4. Failing to Visit the Scene of a Wreck:

Many attorneys blindly rely on the diagram that is included with most police reports to visualize the scene of a wreck. This is usually due to the attorney either being too lazy to visit the scene or being overworked. Scene visits can often reveal information about a wreck that is not obtainable from a police report. For example, lighting conditions and other variables that could obstruct a driver’s vision may not be recorded by the investigating police officer. Roadway evidence such as skid marks or gouges in the pavement may be found which can become critical evidence in cases where liability is disputed.

5. Failing to Send Evidence Preservation Letters:

In every case, the claimant’s attorney should send letters to any potentially liable party and their insurer demanding that all evidence be preserved for inspection. The attorney should then inspect and document all evidence that may otherwise be destroyed. For example, in car wreck cases, insurance companies routinely sell “totaled” cars for salvage after their adjusters have inspected and documented the vehicle damage. If the injured party, or their attorney, hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to inspect and document the vehicles, they will be forced to rely the insurance company’s inspection. Obviously, this is a bad idea and should be avoided at all cost.

6. Failing to Prepare the Case for Trial:

After a car or tractor-trailer wreck, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will immediately begin its investigation with one goal in mind: to minimize any payout to you. Insurance companies know which attorneys will take a case to trial and which attorneys will simply settle cases for whatever they can get. Attorneys that prepare cases for trial consistently obtain larger settlements for their clients than those who simply accept the insurance company’s “take it or leave it” settlement offer.

7. Settling Cases without Knowing the Full Extent of Damages:

Unfortunately, many attorneys settle cases before their clients are finished with their medical treatment. I have never understood this. Many times, car wreck victims must undergo several different kinds of conservative procedures like physical therapy or injections before they know whether they are a candidate for surgery. If the case is settled without accounting for the tremendous costs associated with a surgery, the injured client is left to pay the surgical bills on their own. Do not let your attorney settle your case until you have a firm grasp on your diagnosis, prognosis, and future treatment plan.

8. Failing to Gather All Data Available from Public Agencies:

Many times there is much more information and documentation available from public agencies than the police report. For example, in wrecks resulting in death or serious injury the Georgia State Patrol will often dispatch its Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team “SCRT” to thoroughly investigate and reconstruct the wreck. Other items such as 911 calls, dash cam videos, body cam videos, and CAD reports are available. Attorneys should always obtain every piece of publicly available information related to every car wreck case.

9. Failing to Interview Every Witness:

Some cases seem so clear cut that attorneys fail to interview all potential witnesses. Imagine a collision where the claimant is rear ended by another driver at a stop light. Seems pretty straight forward right? What if a witness spoke to the at-fault driver and smelled alcohol on his breath but the attorney never spoke to this witness? What if the at-fault driver got out of his car and told a witness that he was messing with his phone and didn’t see the car he hit? Make sure your attorney is contacting all witnesses! You can be sure the insurance companies will.

10. Failing to Identify any Defective Products:

Automobile manufacturers are routinely issuing recalls for defects in their automobiles. These dangerous automobiles may have defective seat belts, airbags, brakes, seatbacks, roofs, gas tanks, sudden acceleration, steering mechanisms and many other dangerous components. If these defects are not investigated or recognized in catastrophic personal injury cases, the automaker will not be held accountable for putting lives at risk. Make sure your attorney has looked into whether any defective vehicle component contributed to or exacerbated the injuries you sustained in any catastrophic car wreck case.

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1 Comment

  1. There are so many factors involved and so much information to know in cases like these. That is why it is imperative to be selective when choosing an attorney. You are definitely qualified and I would choose you.

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