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What You Need to Know About Georgia Car Accident Lawsuit Judgements

By Butler Prather LLP on August 20, 2018

If you recently caused a car accident in Atlanta or anywhere else in Georgia, you may wonder whether the other driver will file a lawsuit against you. Ideally, your auto insurance policy will cover the damages and settle the matter. However, there are a few circumstances that could lead to the other driver filing a lawsuit against you, as well a the judgments that are issued.

If I’m Being Sued for a Car Accident in Georgia What Can They Take?

If you wind up the defendant in a car accident lawsuit, you should have some idea of the damages you could owe the plaintiff. If insurance does not cover the plaintiff’s losses, you are on the hook for whatever insurance won’t cover. For example, if you have Georgia’s minimum auto insurance coverage, your coverage will allow for up to $50,000 for injury or death of more than one person in a single accident. If the accident led to more than this amount, you would be liable for paying the remainder.

Therefore, legal representation is crucial for defendants in car accident cases. Your attorney can help ensure the insurance company covers the plaintiff’s damages and explore other options for limiting the amount you must pay out of pocket. If a defendant does not have enough financial assets to cover a plaintiff’s damages, the court may allow the judgment creditor to seize your personal assets instead. This may include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, and other personal assets.

Can I Lose My House From A Case Judgement if I Can’t Pay?

If a case judgment exceeds the amount covered by your insurance in the state of Georgia, the courts can issue a judgement lien in a civil case to a creditor in order to ensure that the responsible party in the case pays off the debt to the plaintiff. With this judgement lien, it can be attached to a house or property, or anything that the person owns that has significant value, like art or jewelry. This judgement lien can be attached to someone’s property for up to 7 years.

If you are unable to pay a court judgement amount and decide to file for bankruptcy, you can utilize a Georgia Homestead Exemption. This protects up to $21,500 of the equity of your home or property. With cases that involve homestead exemptions of this nature, it’s best to work with a personal injury attorney to help establish a payment system on the verdict amount.

What are the Main Reasons for Filing a Lawsuit for a Car Accident?

  • Lack of insurance. An uninsured driver will be liable for the plaintiff’s damages and will not have insurance to cover any of them. Therefore, the plaintiff will file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover his or her losses.
  • Insufficient insurance coverage. If an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage does not fully cover a plaintiff’s damages, the plaintiff may choose to file a lawsuit to cover his or her remaining expenses.
  • Insurance takes too long. In some cases, the insurance process is time-consuming, and the plaintiff may decide that the insurance company is taking too long to issue a settlement. In this event, the defendant will need to work with his or her insurer to reach a speedy resolution; otherwise the plaintiff can pursue legal action instead. Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for plaintiffs to file civil claims for automobile accidents, so a plaintiff nearing this deadline may decide to take legal action if the insurance company hasn’t resolved the issue by this time.

In any of these situations, it is imperative to have legal counsel. Your attorney will help you explore your options for handling the lawsuit. This may include pressuring your insurance company to pay the settlement, exploring the plaintiff’s insurance coverage for underinsured or uninsured motorists, or fighting the lawsuit if you do not believe you are truly to blame for the plaintiff’s damages.

Can I be Sued for Punitive Damages?

If you caused a car accident while engaging in other illegal activity, or your actions were exceptionally dangerous or reckless, you may face punitive damages as well. Georgia caps punitive damages for civil claims at $250,000, but only a wealthy defendant will approach this limit. The court bases punitive damages on the defendant’s financial status, so a defendant with limited assets will likely face much less in punitive damages.

Regardless of your perceived degree of fault for a car accident, hiring an attorney as soon as possible is the best way to protect yourself and to ensure you only need to pay what you legally owe. It’s also possible for your attorney to argue contributory negligence on part of the plaintiff, potentially reducing the damages you owe by a substantial amount.

If you are involved in a car accident, contact the experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Butler Prather LLP about your case today! (404) 321-1700

Posted in: Car Accidents

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