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You've Got Questions
1) Why is my car accident claim taking so long?
Car accident claims can seem like they are taking a long time, but there is usually a good reason for that, outside of your attorney’s control.
There are usually three stages to a car accident claim, presuming it resolves prelitigation:
STAGE 1: Accident Investigation
STAGE 2: Demand Letter and Negotiations
STAGE 3: Health Insurance & Subrogation Resolution
Here, we focus on the first stage, Accident Investigations, and answer several commonly asked questions about the process.
2) How long does it take to open a claim with an insurance company?
Opening a claim usually does not take much longer than a few minutes, but that’s not the issue.
Notifying insurance carriers of a claim is only helpful when they provide information about the insurance coverage available.
Otherwise, we don’t know what a client’s rights and responsibilities may be under the different policies, and how much coverage may be available.
3) When will I know the policy coverage information for the at-fault driver?
The at-fault driver’s insurance carrier does not have to provide policy coverage information for atleast thirty (30) days.
But, that presumes they have received a demand for policy coverage information that complies with Georgia’s statute.
Failure to provide a certified letter that complies with Georgia’s statute could mean you’re waiting much longer for policy coverage information.
4) How long do police departments have to respond to an open record request?
Generally, Georgia government entities have three (3) days to respond to a proper open record request.
This three-day requirement is rarely met and difficult to enforce, short of requesting records in-person. That’s because it can take time to process open record requests, and government entities, such as police departments, have other important work.
And, we want to cooperate with these entities because we may need to take the investigating officer’s deposition in the future.
Also, don’t confuse “responding” with “producing” records. A police department may respond that they have records but can’t lawfully produce them at the time of the request due to a pending investigation or open criminal file.
5) Where do I obtain a copy of the 911 telephone call?
There is no formula for identifying precisely which 911 call center handled your car wreck.
For large metro areas, like Atlanta, it could be a call center servicing the county, the city of Atlanta, or one of the many townships that make up greater Atlanta.
For rural locations, there are often 911 call centers that service the individual counties. Sometimes, it takes some digging, google searching, and telephone calls to identify the appropriate 911 call center.
6) When can I obtain the police department’s full accident file?
The police department’s full accident file will only become available after the investigation is complete and any criminal charges have been disposed.
If the investigation is not yet complete or if there are criminal charges still pending (such as traffic citations), then you can only obtain a copy of the initial wreck report, if and when it’s completed.
7) Where can I get a copy of a ticket disposition?
You can obtain a copy of a ticket disposition from the traffic court that handled the ticket.
Usually, you can identify the traffic court by the police department that wrote the ticket.
For instance if a city’s police department wrote the ticket, it was likely disposed in the city’s municipal court. Meanwhile, if the county sheriff’s department issued the ticket, then the ticket was likely disposed in a county traffic court (such as probate court or state court).
8) How long does it take a court to dispose of a traffic ticket?
It can take several weeks to several months for a court to dispose of a traffic ticket, depending on the court and whether the at-fault driver is contesting the ticket.
Some courts work slowly due to congested court calendars or other reasons.
And, if the at-fault driver is contesting the ticket, there’s a chance their court date may be moved to allow a full hearing on the case.
9) How long does it take to obtain copies of medical records?
Technically, medical providers have thirty days to provide an attorney copies of your medical records, but this doesn’t tell the whole story.
More often than not, these bureaucracies take long than the 30 days to provide copies of the medical records.
As a practical matter, it’s not wise to harass medical providers for records, because we may need their future cooperation in your case and proving your damages.
10) Can a medical provider withhold a patient’s medical records for a past due balance?
11) Can a medical provider withhold records until they receive payment for the records?
12) How long must a physician retain medical records?
A physician is required to keep copies of your medical records for ten (10) years.
Often times, we run in to problems when a medical provider has retired or sold their practice. Then, it can be a complicated process to identify and locate your medical record custodians.
13) What does SCRT mean?
In Georgia, SCRT is an acronym for the Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.
When a collision is fatal, the SCRT send specially trained investigators to document evidence and reconstruct the collision.
14) How long does it take for a SCRT report to be completed?
A SCRT Report can take from several days, to several weeks, to several months to be completed.
SCRT investigations do not happen overnight, and often they gather a lot of data to interpret. When fatal collisions involve multiple vehicles and commercial motor vehicles, such as big rigs, they can be very complex to re-engineer.
Even if the SCRT Report is completed, we cannot gain access to it until the underlying criminal investigation is completed and disposed. For major wrecks involving fatalities, this can take years.
15) What is a medical examiner report?
A medical examiner report is put together by a trained and licensed medical examiner and/or coroner to help identify the medical causes and manner of death.
Medical examiner reports are often completed after performing an autopsy or other postmorterm examination.
16) How long does it take for a medical examiner report to be completed?
It usually takes atleast six weeks before a medical examiner’s report will be completed.
It can take so long to perform a medical examination because it involves more than a simple physical.
The medical examination also involves taking tissue samples for testing, which must be sent off to a separate testing facility. This process can take a long time.
17) What type of inspections can be involved in a motor vehicle collision?
After a motor vehicle collision, it can be important to preserve evidence for or through inspections, which usually include a scene inspection as well as a vehicle inspection.
Inspections can be informal, such as by the attorney taking photographs. Or, it can be escalated and much more formal, performed by a trained expert or accident reconstructionist, at very high costs.
18) What’s involved in a vehicle inspection?
A vehicle inspection can involve many items to investigate the collision and preserve evidence.
It can be an inspection of the mechanical components of the vehicle to explore any mechanical malfunction (i.e. brakes, lights, suspension, steering, airbags, etc.).
It can also be an inspection of the collision damage to help an expert understand crush damage, angle of collision, and vehicle speeds.
Finally, it can be an inspection of the on-board computer data and engine control module (ECM) to identify and preserve data about the vehicle in the moments leading up to and after the wreck (i.e. speed, acceleration, deceleration, brake timing, airbag deployment times, steering angles, etc.)
Often, only a qualified expert is required to perform anything more than a photographic investigation. So, it’s important to identify these experts early on and have them prepared to timely perform the inspection.
After the inspection, the experts use the data gathered, combined with their own research and experience on the specific subjects, to formulate opinions, which can take time.
19) What’s involved in a scene inspection?
A scene inspection also involves many items to investigate and preserve evidence. For complex collisions, a qualified expert is the best person to perform these inspections.
The scene inspection usually involves a coordinated effort between all of the parties to investigate and document the scene of the injury together. If the inspection is on the defendant’s property, these inspections need to be coordinated through their attorney and/or adjuster.
An expert will investigate the final resting positions of the vehicles and try to recreate the collision. They combine data they’ve taken from the vehicle inspection with the measurements and data they gather at the scene inspection to develop scientific theories on how the collision occurred.
20) Why is it important to identify an expert for car accident inspections?
It’s important to identify an expert for a car accident inspection because they are trained in gathering and preserving data in a reliable, scientific manner.
They are also trained in applying scientific principles to interpret this data.
If an untrained professional tries to gather and preserve data, but in an unreliable manner, this can spoil all of the data and actually hurt the case.
21) How are witnesses to a collision identified?
Most often, witnesses to a collision can be identified by any contact information given to the parties involved, disclosures made in police reports, or in rarer cases, the 911 records may provide identifying information.
Otherwise, an attorney will have to be creative to identify potential witnesses or similar evidence.
For instance, if a local business has surveillance camera that captured the collision, the attorney may be able to persuade the property owner to share that footage. Alternatively, the attorney can knock on doors to local businesses and/or homes to try to identify a witness.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to identify an eye-witness to a motor vehicle collision.
22) Do witnesses willingly talk to attorneys?
As a rule of thumb, most people do not like talking to attorneys or their clients when they know that the court system may get involved.
So, even though there may have been a witness to your collision, it can be difficult to speak with the witness.
23) If I have health insurance, why was a hospital lien filed?
Although you have health insurance, most medical providers and hospital liens will try to seek reimbursement out of any car accident settlement, because they know they can collect more money.
For this reason, it’s important that the attorney notify your health insurance of any medical bills immediately and that they begin the process of consolidating your medical bills, if possible. This can take months because medical providers have no incentive to charge your health insurance. Incidentally, your health insurance has no incentive to cover these medical expenses if they know you have a car accident claim.