Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers

Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers

The Wetherington Law Firm focuses on car accident cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death due to defective vehicles, or tractor trailers, and all-around bad drivers.

Georgia Auto Products Attorney Matt Wetherington is committed to protecting the public from dangerous cars and trucks.
Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Matt Wetherington.

Automobile accidents are one of the most common types of personal injury cases.  Every personal injury law firm in the United States claims to handle motor vehicle accident cases.  Many personal injury law firms are built exclusively to handle small injury claims, like whiplash.  These are the firms that you see every day in television ads, billboards, and on the sides of buses.  They are called “volume” law firms.  At most volume law firms, the cases are handled by a caseworker with minimal or no legal training.  The Wetherington Law Firm handles our cases exclusively with experienced car accident lawyers and legal professionals.

Most volume law firms are unable to handle car accident cases involving serious injuries or complex fact patterns.  These kinds of cases are more expensive to pursue and involve complicated questions of law.  They also require detailed knowledge of federal regulations.  Many involve amputation, paraplegia, brain injuries, or multiple broken bones.  Despite having more “obvious” injuries, these cases are much harder to pursue and obtain full compensation.  The Wetherington Law Firm focuses on these catastrophic injury cases.  And we handle them exclusively on contingency, which means that we pay all of the case expenses upfront and you do not pay us back unless and until we win.

Automobile accident cases fall into some broad categories.  Because each of these categories has unique legal and practical considerations, we have written in-depth articles that you can read by clicking on the links below:

  • Car and Truck Accidents – cases involving ordinary passenger vehicles crashing into each other (this page);
  • Commercial Vehicle Accidents – cases involving vehicles used for commercial purposes, including large tractor-trailers;
  • Motorcycle Accidents – cases involving road hazards or other vehicles striking motorcycle drivers and their passengers;
  • Bicycle Accidents – cases involving road hazards, sidewalk hazards, or other vehicles striking cyclists;
  • Defective Vehicles – cases where a vehicle component, like a tire, airbag, or seatbelt fails to perform as expected;
  • Pedestrian Injuries – cases where a vehicle strikes a pedestrian;
  • Road Hazards – cases where the design or maintenance of a roadway causes an accident; and
  • Off-road Vehicle Crashes – cases involving four-wheelers, dirt bikes, golf carts, and similar off-road vehicles.

Even within these categories, there are some unique types of cases that are treated differently and require specialized knowledge and experience.  These include the following types of cases, which you can learn more about by clicking the links below:

Why You Should Hire a Lawyer After a Car Accident in Atlanta

Automobile accidents involving large medical bills or potentially serious injuries always need the guidance of a lawyer.  If you are undecided about hiring a lawyer, call us for a free consultation.  We will walk you through our process, explain what we can do and how we are going to do it.  What may seem like an obvious case can quickly change to a $0 recovery based on a failure to preserve evidence or falling for a trick question from an insurance adjuster.  An experienced car accident lawyer can make a huge difference.  Trying to handle a serious car accident claim on your own will not only get you much less than you deserve, but it is much more stressful than you may think.

Everyone knows that the insurance companies do not have car accident victims’ best interests at heart.  However, most people are unprepared for how well insurance adjusters are trained to minimize injuries and deny valid claims.  The Wetherington Law Firm has the experience and financial resources needed to prove your case and obtain full compensation for your injuries.  Every personal injury client receives a dedicated team of lawyers and supporting staff who will do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on getting better.  Our clients trust us to do everything possible to obtain full value for their injuries.  You can read about our satisfied clients here.  Our firm works exclusively on contingency.  That means that you do not pay us a single penny unless and until we obtain a recovery for you.  When you hire us, you can expect us to take the following steps immediately:

Every case receives a dedicated team of experience medical malpractice lawyers and supporting staff who will keep you informed throughout the case.
Every case receives a dedicated team of experienced car accident lawyers and legal professionals who will keep you informed throughout the case.

Who Can I Recover Money from After a Car Accident in Atlanta?

After a car accident, there are several potential parties that you might be able to recover money from.  Although the specifics vary by state and this is a complicated area of law, the following parties must be considered:

The At-Fault Driver

When involved in an accident with two or more vehicles, you can assert a claim against the driver of the responsible vehicle.  In Georgia, every driver is required to carry liability insurance.  The minimum coverage amount in Georgia is set by a statute, O.C.G.A. 33-7-11:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in a single accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury or death of more than one person in a single accident
  • $25,000 for injury or harm to the property of others in a single accident

These coverages are the minimum amounts of coverage required, and it is generally advisable to carry higher coverages.  Under certain circumstances, if your damages exceed the policy limits, the at-fault driver can be held personally responsible for the difference.  In other circumstances, the insurance company can be responsible for the full value of your injuries.

The Owner of the At-Fault Vehicle

In many states, including Georgia, an injured person may have a claim against the owner of an at-fault vehicle, even if the owner was not driving the car at the time of the accident.  This is because of a legal theory called negligent entrustment.  In a negligent entrustment claim, liability arises from the negligent act of the owner in lending his automobile to another to drive, with actual knowledge that the driver is incompetent or habitually reckless.  This theory commonly arises in drunk driving cases where a person has a history of DUIs and tractor trailer accidents where the company knew that the driver was a bad driver.

Where the owner of the vehicle is a large corporation, there is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered.

The Resident Relatives of the At-Fault Driver

Some liability insurance policies provide liability coverage for all family members who live in the same household.  This type of coverage is not common, but it is important to obtain all relevant liability policies to confirm that insurance coverage is not missed.

The Employer of the At-Fault Driver

If the negligent driver was working and in the course and scope of his or her employment, the employer is liable for the employee’s negligence even if the employee was driving a personal vehicle.  Where the at-fault driver was using his or her employer’s vehicle, there is a presumption that the person was working in the course and scope of their employment.  However, this presumption can be rebutted by the employer.  When an accident was caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, this analysis can become very complicated.

The Manufacturer of the Vehicle

If a vehicle component causes an accident, such as a sudden vehicle acceleration, you may be able to assert a lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer.  This is commonly referred to as a defective vehicle claim.

Even if the accident was caused by a negligent driver, you may still be able to assert a claim against the vehicle manufacturer if the injuries in the accident were made worse by the failure of a vehicle component.  For example, a defective roof system might crush into the vehicle’s occupants or a seatbelt may become unlatched and allow a person to be ejected from the vehicle.

There is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered from a vehicle manufacturer in Georgia.

The Manufacturer of the Vehicle’s Tires

If a tire fails and causes an accident, the manufacturer of the tire may be responsible.  A significant portion of our practice is dedicated to defective tire claims.  Tires fail for a variety of reasons.  One of the most common tire failure reasons is the failure to include reasonable design features that would make the tire safe.  These features include things like belt wedges and cap plies.

There is generally no limit to the amount that can be recovered from a tire manufacturer in Georgia.

The Repair Shops That Serviced the Vehicle and Tires

Once a vehicle is sold, it requires regular maintenance. As vehicle systems, including tires, become more complex, the ability of consumers to perform self-maintenance is decreasing. As a result, most consumers have to trust service centers to keep their vehicle and tires safe.  Unfortunately, some service centers cut corners to save time or money and consumer lives are placed at risk. When a service center agrees to service a vehicle, the service center assumes a duty to identify and warn of dangerous conditions and to perform repairs and maintenance in a safe and professional manner.  The failure to do so can subject the retailer to liability.

The Contractor Responsible for the Design or Maintenance of the Road

If the accident was caused by a hazardous condition on the roadway, such as a large pothole, the contractor responsible for the roadway may be responsible for the injuries and damages caused by the accident.  Similarly, if the design of the roadway makes it more prone to accidents or serious injuries, such as failing to install a guardrail on a sharp curve, the contractor may be responsible for the accident.

Your Insurance Carrier – Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

If the at-fault driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover your injuries, it may be possible to recover from your own insurance coverage through underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.  This is a complicated area that generally requires an lawyer to confirm that you are receiving the full benefit of the coverage that you have purchased.

Your Resident Relative’s Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In Georgia, all underinsured/uninsured insurance policies provide liability coverage for all resident relatives of a household.  If you live in the same house as a family member, but have different insurance policies for your vehicles, you may be able to recover some insurance benefits from your relative’s carrier after you have exhausted all coverage on your own uninsured/underinsured policy.

Your Employer – Worker’s Compensation

If a person is injured in an accident while in the course and scope of his or her employment, the injured person may be able to recover worker’s compensation benefits.  It does not matter who was at fault.  If the person is eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, he or she can receive coverage.  It is possible to recover both worker’s compensation and liability insurance.

What Must I Prove to Recover for Personal Injuries After a Car Accident in Atlanta?

Although the application of the law in each type of case is very different, all car accident cases come from the same rules.  To recover for personal injuries after a car accident, you must establish the basic elements of a tort:

  1. The existence of a duty on the part of the other driver to act a certain way;
  2. The failure of the driver to perform that duty;
  3. Actual injuries; and
  4. Proof that the injuries were proximately caused by the driver’s negligence.

These elements can be confusing.  That is why we have written detailed articles on each of these elements that you can read here.  The important thing for you to know is that the first element, duty, is very important in evaluating a car accident case.  Another good word for duty is responsibility.  In Georgia, all drivers have the responsibility to drive in a safe manner and avoid causing harm to others.  “Driving safely” generally means driving in a manner that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances.  Under most circumstances, a reasonably prudent driver will:

  • Drive at a reasonable speed;
  • Keep a lookout for hazards and pedestrians;
  • Yield to others when necessary;
  • Stop or slow when appropriate; and
  • Maintain the vehicle in a safe condition.

When a person fails to drive in a reasonable manner, they are deemed “negligent.”  Simply driving in a negligent manner without causing harm does not allow someone to file suit against the negligent driver.  For example, if a tractor-trailer is speeding, failing to keep a lookout ahead, and has to drive on the shoulder of the roadway at very high speeds and almost hits several vehicles, the owner of the cars he almost hit would not have a valid claim against the negligent driver.  Here is a real-world video of this exact scenario:

However, if a negligent truck driver causes an accident, the negligent driver will be liable for damages and injuries he or she causes.  Whether a person has operated a vehicle in a negligent manner is generally a question that is submitted to a jury.

In addition to the general rule that a driver must act reasonably, there are rules of the road that every driver must comply with.  Unlike ordinary negligence, when a driver violates one of these rules and causes an accident, the injured person does not prove that a reasonable person should have acted differently — the conduct is automatically considered negligent.  In Georgia, these rules include the following (click the links below to learn more):

If there is evidence that an at-fault driver committed one of the above violations, the jury will likely be read the following law at trial:

The plaintiff contends that the defendant violated certain laws or ordinances. Such violation is called negligence per se, which means negligence as a matter of law. It is your duty to decide whether such violation took place or not.

This means that if you successfully prove that the alleged violation took place, then negligence is established and you only have to prove that your injuries were caused by the negligent act.

How Can You Lose a Car Accident Case in Georgia?

After a car accident, proof of an injury does not automatically create liability on the other driver.  People are injured in car accidents every day and do not receive any type of compensation.  In some cases, the injured person does not receive the compensation they were likely entitled.  There are many reasons why people lose car accident claims.  Here are the most common ways that a case is lost.

Failing to Bring a Claim in Time Can Result in a Complete Bar of the Claim

Georgia has a two-year statute of limitation for most personal injury lawsuits after a car accident.  A statute of limitation provides the maximum period of time in which a civil lawsuit must be started or it is forever barred. The purpose of a statute of limitation is to prevent an injured party from delaying the commencement of an action.  Over time, evidence is lost, memories fade, and witnesses move away or die. This is why it is important to bring a personal injury claim as soon as possible.

The Doctrines of Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault Can Limit Recovery After a Car Accident

Contributory negligence is a common defense used in car accident cases.  The defense of contributory negligence claims that you failed to keep an adequate lookout of your surroundings or otherwise did something that contributed to the accident, and you should be disqualified from recovering. If a defendant is successful in a contributory negligence defense, you will not recover any damages.  The contributory negligence doctrine is extremely harsh and intended to be cruel to injured people.  It is currently only used in North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

A majority of states, including Georgia, have adopted a “comparative negligence” system.  For states that have adopted comparative negligence, the jury compares the plaintiff’s negligence to the defendant’s negligence and applies percentages to each.  Depending on the state, the Court either reduces the total recovery by the percentage assigned to the Plaintiff or rules in favor of the Defendant if the percentage assigned to the Plaintiff is over a certain amount.

Georgia’s comparative negligence rule is codified under O.C.G.A. 51-12-33: Reduction and apportionment of award or bar of recovery according to percentage of fault of parties and nonparties:

Where an action is brought against one or more persons for injury to person or property and the plaintiff is to some degree responsible for the injury or damages claimed, the trier of fact, in its determination of the total amount of damages to be awarded, if any, shall determine the percentage of fault of the plaintiff and the judge shall reduce the amount of damages otherwise awarded to the plaintiff in proportion to his or her percentage of fault. … [T]he plaintiff shall not be entitled to receive any damages if the plaintiff is 50 percent or more responsible for the injury or damages claimed.

Alternatively stated, if the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more negligent when compared to defendant(s), then he is barred from recovering anything in Georgia.  If the plaintiff is instead found by the jury to be 40% at fault, he would still be entitled to recover 60% of his damages(100% minus 40%).

Here is an example:

Famous Atlanta rapper Ludacris is looking for a parking spot.  He encounters an open parking spot and prepares to turn into the spot.  Unfortunately, another Atlanta rapper, Usher approaches from the opposite direction and also wants the spot.  Both drivers see the other and know that proceeding will cause an accident.  Nonetheless, they both attempt to turn into the spot and they crash into each other.

If Ludacris attempts to sue Usher, it is likely that the jury will determine that he is equally at fault for the accident.  If so, Ludacris would be 50% at fault for the accident and will not be entitled to recover anything.  However, if the jury determines that Ludacris is only 40% responsible for the accident because he arrived at the spot first, Ludacris would be entitled to recover 60% of his damages (100% minus 40%).

Assuming the Risk of Injury Bars a Recovery After a Car Accident

Assumption of the risk is another defense frequently seen in car accident cases.  Like comparative negligence, assumption of the risk is very difficult to prove.  A defendant asserting an assumption of the risk defense has the burden of establishing that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the danger, understood and appreciated the risk, and voluntarily exposed his or her self to the risk.  Actual knowledge is required to show an assumption of the risk.  Even where there is evidence to show that one party could or might have discovered and avoided the risk, the defense cannot be presented to the jury.  This is because the knowledge requirement does not refer to an injured persons’ comprehension of general, non-specific, risks that might be associated with such conditions or activities.

Nonetheless, if the fact finder finds that the plaintiff had actual knowledge of the hazard and voluntarily assumed the risk of injury, then that is a complete bar to the plaintiff’s recovery.  Here is an example from a recent case in Georgia:

Wilson has prior knowledge that her neighbor’s dog, Baby, had previously bitten one of her neighbors.  Wilson also has years of experience with dogs.  In the past, to avoid injury, Wilson had broken up dog fights using a stick.  Despite this knowledge, Wilson attempts to break up a dog fight between Baby and her own dog with her bare hands.  While attempting to break up this fight, Wilson was bitten by Baby and seriously injured.  Because of Wilson’s prior knowledge, and because Wilson voluntarily engaged in an obviously dangerous activity, Wilson has assumed the risk and cannot recover for her injuries as a matter of law.

Saulsbury v. Wilson, 348 Ga. App. 557, 561, 823 S.E.2d 867, 870 (2019)

Government Entities are Sometimes Immune from Liability

This is an area of law that is too broad to be covered in this article.  However, please know that where there is a possibility that a government employee or entity was partially responsible for an accident, special rules apply.  There are different deadlines for presenting claims, different rules for filing suit, and limits on who can be sued.

What Damages Can You Recover After a Car Accident?

The main public policy purpose for tort law is compensation. Compensatory damages are money damages awarded to compensate the plaintiff and make the plaintiff whole. The system is not perfect. Life, limb, and freedom from pain cannot be restored. However, compensatory damages are a means of attempting to place the plaintiff in the same relative position that he or she was in before the loss by way of monetary compensation.  Compensatory damages are categorized as either general damages or special damages.

You Can Recover “General” Damages After a Car Accident

General damages are “non-economic” losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental anguish, all of which have no specific, itemized value.  The monetary value of general damages is determined by the jury, and jury verdicts are not consistent.  A broken ankle in one courtroom could be worth $10,000 in pain and suffering.  In another courtroom, it could be worth $100,000.  Matt Wetherington tried a case in Fulton County that resulted in a $2.8 million verdict for a broken ankle.  However, it is important to know that jury verdicts and settlements vary widely, even for the exact same injury.  The variance is due to the individual plaintiff, the jurors at the trial, and the effectiveness of the injured person’s lawyer.

You Can Recover “Special” Damages After a Car Accident

Special damages are “economic” losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or the cost of hiring household help, all of which do have a specific itemized value and can be more easily determined or calculated on a simple mathematical basis – once you have obtained the necessary records to prove that the expenses were incurred.  It is important to note that only medical expenses “proximately caused” by the accident itself can be recovered.  If you would like to learn more about how proximate cause is determined, click here.  For simplicity sake, you should know that proximate cause is often highly contested.

Punitive Damages for Injuries Caused by Reckless or Intentional Conduct

In tort actions, there may be aggravating circumstances that may warrant the awarding or imposing of additional damages called punitive damages.  Punitive damages, when authorized, are imposed not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.  To recover punitive damages, the victim must prove that the at fault driver’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care that would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.

The Spouse of an Injured Persons is Entitled to Recover Also

The spouse of an injured person is entitled to recover for something called a loss of consortium.  Loss of consortium damages compensate for the loss of any services one spouse provides to another. Besides those sexual in nature, such services may consist of cooking, cleaning, household chores, household repairs, general companionship, and everything else that comes with a marriage.

If the Car Accident Results in a Death, Special Rules Apply

When a car accident results in a death, the case turns into a wrongful death claim, instead of a personal injury claim.  To learn more about wrongful death claims, click here.

The Wetherington Law Firm Has Recovered Millions for Clients Involved in Car Accidents in Atlanta

Our lawyers are highly skilled in car accident law.  In many cases, settlement is not possible until a judge rules that the proper defendants have been named, the claims asserted are valid, and there is enough evidence to proceed forward to a jury trial.  By that point, it is too late to fix problems in the case.  It is important that you start with an lawyer that has the experience and resources necessary to put your case in the best position possible.  Our lawyers have literally spent months in the court room presenting personal injury cases and obtaining record breaking verdicts.  We also have lawyers that have spent years working for defense firms and know the traps that are set by corporations and their insurance companies.

How to Hire the Best Car Accident Lawyers in Atlanta

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is one of the most important financial decisions you can ever make.  There are a number of lawyers who hold themselves out as “experts” who have never tried a case or even settled a case involving catastrophic injuries.  It is important that you ask any prospective lawyer about his or her experience with personal injury lawsuits, specifically with regard to car accidents and the injuries that you sustained.

If you are ready to hire an lawyer for your car accident, click here to complete our personal injury intake form.  This is the fastest way to get started.  If we accept your case, it will be on contingency.  That means that you do not pay anything up front and only pay us if we win your case.  If we do not accept your case, we will help you find a lawyer who can.  We generally only accept cases involving significant injuries.  However, we know many good lawyers and will make sure that you do not have to search around for someone to accept your case.

You Can Make a Lasting Difference in the Lives of Others by Hiring the Wetherington Law Firm

Obtaining full and complete compensation for our clients is the most important service we provide to our clients.  Protecting the general public and making sure that other people are protected is part of obtaining justice.  We frequently work with law enforcement, local government officials, state legislators, and federal agencies to understand the root cause of dangerous conditions.  This often leads to uncovering dangerous trends or patterns of behavior that must be changed.  Many of our clients have chosen not to be defined by their injuries, and instead choose to serve as a beacon of hope to others.  Whether through legislation, refusing to settle unless changes are made, or simply sharing their story, our clients’ efforts have helped save MILLIONS of people from serious injury or death.  If you can help prevent even one other person from being hurt or injured by the same problem, it will help make every day of your recovery a little bit better.  We care about you as a person and will work with you however you want to help make the world a safer and better place.  Call us now to get started.

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Why Hire Us?

Reputation matters. Our firm only pursues high value, meritorious lawsuits. The insurance companies may not like us, but they respect the work we do and results we obtain for our clients. When a case moves into litigation, the defense attorneys know that we have properly investigated the claims, know the applicable law, and are preparing the case for trial.

There is no risk when hiring our firm.

We do not charge attorney fees for obtaining property damage or medical payment coverage for our clients. Other firms charge for this service.

We have saved our clients millions simply by negotiating medical bills and fighting invalid medical liens.