I live in Georgia and got in a car wreck. How do I get the other guy’s insurance to pay for my car?

Lots of folks don’t know how to proceed after they’ve been in an auto accident. Insurance companies for the other party can be intimidating, and the paperwork involved may overwhelm someone who has never had any experience with a car wreck.  One of people’s biggest worries is how to go about getting their car fixed after the wreck.

The first thing you probably need to know is that if the police report cites you as being at fault, you’re going to have a harder time getting your repairs paid for. It’s not unusual for a police officer to assign blame wrongly. This isn’t because they are out to get anyone;  they’re doing the best they can on the spot. Officers are not in the business of deciding liability and often have to go with what appears to be the most obvious scenario.

If you are blamed for the accident within the police report, or if you get a citation for the accident, you will have had to have collision coverage on your own auto insurance policy. To put it bluntly, the other driver’s insurer will refuse to pay your damages unless it appears that their driver is to blame. In this case, you’ll need to submit your claim to your own insurer. If you have no collision coverage at the time of the wreck, then your situation is pretty grim. Some Atlanta injury lawyers will bundle property damage claims with bodily injury claims, but they make those calls on a case-by-case basis.

If you’re not to blame and there isn’t an injury claim, it’s advisable to do the following:

Fight the ticket in court. If you aren’t represented by a lawyer, and the policeman doesn’t show up the first time, the case will probably be continued to another date. If he doesn’t appear a second time, the court will throw out the ticket.

Don’t plead guilty to a citation if you want to fight its liability. This is basically admitting you are to blame. In most Georgia courts you can plead ‘Nolo Contendere’ once every five years; you want to be careful how and when you use this, though. Use it where it can do you the most good. In other words, you want to save this option for important charges. A second option is to try the citation before a judge. If you lose, this result has no bearing on a civil case where your opponent is seeking damages.

File a civil suit.  After your traffic court issue is done, go to the magistrate court in the county where the other driver lives.  You can find their address on the police report.  For about $125, you can file a civil suit. In your complaint, explain in simple terms–without heated language– why the other side is to blame and how much it will cost to fix your vehicle. Try to acquire more than one estimate, so you can establish a baseline that is fair to your case.

Okay, that’s the pretrial information. Next time I’ll give you the rundown on how to be prepared for your court date. Or, if you think it might be too intimidating or overwhelming to go it alone, you could give me a call and inquire about legal representation.

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