Posted in Car Accidents 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 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.
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.
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.
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.