Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Am I Required to Stop After a Wreck? OCGA 40-6-273 and OCGA 40-6-274
Posted by Wetherington Law Firm | Articles
When to Stop or Continue Driving After an Accident
Hi, and welcome back to our ongoing series on negligence per se and Georgia’s rules of the road! Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about various forms of hit-and-run. Today, we’re going to discuss situations where it’s necessary to stop after a crash, as well as situations where it’s actually okay to keep on driving.
When to Stop
It’s a good idea to stop any time you believe you may have been in an accident if only to check on the situation. If there are any injuries, or any damage to property that isn’t yours, you have a legal duty to stay put until you’ve completed a few mandatory steps. In previous articles, we’ve already talked about the steps to take after an accident with another moving vehicle or pedestrian, after hitting a parked car, and after hitting a highway fixture.
In general, you will need to help anyone who was injured access necessary medical care, and provide your information both to the injured and to anyone whose property was damaged.
What to Report
In some cases, you will need to notify more than just the other people affected by the accident. Under statute 40-6-273, if there are injuries, fatalities, or property damage likely to cost more than $500, you are required to notify the police as well.
The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $500.00 or more shall immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice of such accident to the local police department if such accident occurs within a municipality. If such accident occurs outside a municipality, such notice shall be given to the office of the county sheriff or to the nearest office of the state patrol.
As well as being a traffic law violation, failing to notify the police immediately can void your insurance coverage after an accident.
When Not to Stop
Although it’s important to be certain, there are some situations where it’s okay to drive away from a crash without taking any particular action first. Statute 40-6-274 specifies that, unless there’s a local law prohibiting it, drivers are free to leave an accident site immediately, as long as there are no injuries and no damage to the property of others.
Any other provision of this article or any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, the driver of any vehicle involved in a traffic accident in which there is no personal injury or in which no second party and no property of a second party is involved shall not have the duty to stop or immediately report such accident, and no such driver shall be prosecuted for his failure to stop or immediately to report such accident. This Code section shall not abrogate or affect a driver’s duty to file any written report which may be required by the local law enforcement agency.
For example, if you dent one of your hubcaps against a curb, and the curb is okay, there’s no need to stop or make any calls.
What Damages Can You Recover from a Driver Who Failed to Stop After a Wreck?
Driving away from an accident that hurt someone or damaged someone else’s property is illegal, regardless of whose fault the initial accident was. The hit-and-run driver in this situation is liable for any damages they would normally be considered at fault for, as well as any additional damages caused by their running away.
For example, if a hit-and-run accident leaves a victim alone and unable to call for medical help under their own power, any additional complications that arise from the delay in care can be attributed to the hit-and-run driver under statute 40-6-273 and negligence per se.
Often, courts will also increase the damages hit-and-run drivers must pay, compared with what the calculations would have been for an identical accident if all drivers had stopped.
Assuming the hit-and-run driver is identified and caught, the settlement you’ll be able to collect from that person will be divided into special damages and general damages.
Special Damages Cover Financial Losses
The obvious damages that are easiest to tally up in numbers are called special damages. These include your damaged property, your medical bills, and your lost income, if you’ve had to take time off work or pass up lucrative opportunities you would normally have pursued. Even though they’re based on the actual monetary value of what you’ve lost, special damages can still be tricky to calculate and claim for a few reasons. Firstly, your special damages total should include all of your financial losses, present and future, so there’s usually some guesswork to be done, especially if your medical care or you career will be impacted in a long-term way. Secondly, in order to claim special damages, you’ll need to present a thorough record of your expenses, as well as proof that they were caused by the hit-and-run driver’s negligence. The Wetherington Law Firm can help you with all the steps of this process. To learn more about how we help our clients prove direct or proximate cause, click here.
General Damages Compensate for Emotional Losses
There’s a big difference between avoiding financial loss after an accident, and not being in an accident in the first place. Given the choice between the two, almost everyone would choose to avoid the accident completely. There might be a lot of stress, lost time, or pain involved in moving on from an accident, especially when there are physical injuries. Often, the psychological effects are the hardest part to deal with. Many survivors have trouble getting behind the wheel again, or struggle with feelings of anger and frustration that take a toll on their personal relationships and emotional wellbeing. Although money, by definition, can’t completely repair general damages, it’s the best tool the law has to acknowledge survivors’ pain. That’s what a general damages settlement is for. It’s an additional sum, not attached to any particular expense, solely intended to improve your quality of life and balance out some of the damage that’s been done to it.
What If the Accident Killed Someone?
If you’ve lost a loved one to a hit-and-run accident, the compassionate experts at the Wetherington Law Firm are always available to discuss your situation and how we can help. We also encourage you to look over our explanation of statute 40-6-270, which deals more specifically with hit-and-run accidents involving injuries and death, and our general page on wrongful death law. The rules for these kinds of cases are different from those for personal injury, and it’s helpful to be familiar with the distinctions.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
A lawyer wears many hats throughout the course of a case. Most obviously, we present our clients’ cases in the most thorough, compelling way possible, making their pain and loss felt by the judge and jury to ensure a fair general damages settlement, as well as accounting for every dime of expense to be covered by special damages. However, much of our work is less visible and dramatic than that. We also provide moral support and expert guidance throughout the legal process, and we take some of the most stressful work off our clients’ shoulders. For example, communicating with an opponent’s insurance company representatives can be both re-traumatizing and dangerous for many survivors. An insurance company’s goal is to pay out as little as possible in settlements, and they’ll use a variety of tactics to make that happen, including lowball offers, blame-shifting, harassment, and trick questions. What you say to an insurance representative can be used against you in court, even if you’re making guesses about facts you don’t have while in a vulnerable emotional state. When you have a good lawyer to refer insurance companies to, you can relax and rest assured that these interactions are being handled in the most optimal possible way for your case.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
You don’t need to have a budget set aside for legal fees in order to work with the Wetherington Law Firm. We’re a group of experienced civil attorneys, some of whom have worked for insurance companies in the past, who have chosen to use our skills for good. We’re tired of watching money determine the outcome of cases, with the wealthier side dragging out proceedings until their opponent can’t afford to continue.
That’s why we now work exclusively on contingency. That means the only payment we accept is a percentage of the settlements we win for our clients. We don’t charge by the hour or request fees of any kind up front. We accept clients based on the merits of their cases, and then we fight for them for as long as it takes.
To get started with a free consultation, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or reach out through the contact form on the right.
The Wetherington Law Firm Represents Everyday Heroes
If you’re looking to accomplish something with your case, beyond compensating your own losses, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you’re one of many hit-and-run victims in a particular complex where accidents aren’t taken as seriously as they should be. When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, you have a fellow idealist on your side, willing to hold off on pursuing the quick money in order to investigate local laws and businesses, seeking out underlying problems in need of solving. To learn about how we’ve helped other clients push for change an make their communities safer, reach out and ask any time!