One of the things many of my clients want to know is how to get your car fixed after a crash in Georgia go about getting their car fixed after it has been in a crash in Georgia. If the accident report came out against you and in favor of the other driver just understand that you are facing an uphill battle. Police Officers frequently get the blame issue wrong. It’s not because they are mean, it’s because they are not in the business of deciding liability. Some do a more thorough job that others, but many times they will simply write out the ticket that they feel seems most obvious. We frequently spend half of our time tracking down eyewitnesses and developing evidence to prove liability.
If the accident report assigns blame to you under the “contributing factors” section on page one or you got the citation, you better have collision coverage on your own policy. The other car’s insurer will not pay for your property damage and rental car unless it looks like they are to blame. Under these facts, submit the claim to your own insurer. If you have no collision coverage, then you are in a pickle. I will bundle the property damage claim with the bodily injury claim when clients hire me but that decision is made on a case by case basis.
If there is no injury claim and you have a sound reason why the other side is to blame; do the following:
1. Go to Court and fight the ticket. Understand that if you are unrepresented and the cop no shows the first time, they will probably continue the case. If he no shows the second time then the ticket gets tossed.
2. Never plead guilty to a traffic citation that you intend to fight liability on. This is an admission that you were to blame. In most Georgia Courts, you can plead NOLO CONTENDERE once every five years. Be careful and save it for important charges. Second option is to try it before the judge and lose. If you lose, that is not binding on a civil case for damages.
3. After the traffic court issue is resolved, go down to the magistrate court for the county where the other driver lives (get the address on the accident report) and file a civil suit on your own. It costs around $125.00 to do it. Lay out in simple sentences why the other side is to blame and how much it cost to fix.
4. When you go to court you will either need a paid receipt for the repair if it was done as evidence of the damages they owe you or if the repair was not done, you need to bring a live person from the body shop to tell the judge how much it will cost. Affidavits won’t cut it. Unless the witness is live, it will be kept out as hearsay.
5. In court the rule is to be organized. Be prepared to show the following as the plaintiff.
a. What traffic rule or duty did the other person fail to follow. Did they speed? Did they fail to yield? Did they fail to use a turn signal etc.
b. You may testify on your own behalf and say what you saw. The first part of the case is for testimony. “I saw this….” Do not launch into a long speech about the whole case and how no one will pay you. Stand up and tell the judge what you saw and what rules or duties the other driver broke. Then introduce your evidence of the damages. Show photos. Introduce paid bills or call your witness on damages.
c. Call the other party to the stand. You may ask them questions on cross examination. Do not argue with them but ask them about their speed, where they were looking, familiarity with the roadway etc. You should plan out your questions ahead of time so you do not get nervous. The questions should be about how the crash happened and not much else. Less is better.
d. Before you rest your case, go over this checklist:
1. Did I tell the judge all my evidence as to why it is their fault and not mine?
2. Did I put in all the pictures and documents showing damage?
3. Did I tender my exhibits? Every piece of paper or photo you want the judge to look at must be numbered and you must say “i am tendering exhibit x and hand it to the judge” Remember to show it to the other party before you attempt to introduce it to the judge. This is required.
e. You will have a chance to give a summation or closing argument. Tell the judge what facts are strong for you and why the other side is wrong.
I do help my clients with their property damage claims when I represent them as their injury lawyer.