In some cases, it might be clear immediately who was at fault for a car accident, but that is not always the case. In the chaos of the accident scene, that may not be determined or it just may not be considered important to issue a citation yet. But does leaving the scene with no ticket mean you are not at fault? Not necessarily. As you deal with the aftermath of the damage, insurance claims, and seeking treatment for whiplash, you may still receive a citation in the mail months after the fact. Read on to understand the process of issuing a citation for car accidents and why it may not be immediate.
Law Enforcement at the Accident Scene
When police are called to the scene of a car accident, they have a number of duties to perform. Their first responsibility is to arrange medical care for anyone who acquired car accident injuries and ensure life-saving measures are taken when needed. In addition to that, they need to secure the scene and begin investigating the cause of the accident. They will complete initial reports, document evidence, and research the parties involved in the accident. If any arrest warrants are discovered or a driver proves to be intoxicated or uninsured, they may be arrested or fined then.
Officers at an accident scene also have the responsibility to issue citations. In some cases, the cause of the accident will be obvious and these tickets can be written and issued immediately. If you are given a citation at the scene, you can fight it later in court but must accept it from the officer. These citations are not proof of guilt or fault and you are entitled to plead “not guilty” in court.
However, sometimes the police will not issue a citation to any party in the immediate aftermath of an accident. Does that mean no one is at fault?
When there is no clear cause, police officers will likely take their police report and evidence back to their station and continue investigating the scenario. They may also use traffic camera footage and eye witness accounts to corroborate stories and piece together the events of the crash. This can take days, weeks, or months depending on the severity and complexity of the events. Once the officer reaches a conclusion about who is at fault, they have the right to send a citation to either or both parties involved.
What Happens If I Am Issued a Citation?
If you are given a ticket in association with an accident, it means some fault has been found and this is typically entered as information pertinent to an insurance claim. However, it does not necessarily mean you will be on the hook for all damages.
In many cases, both drivers are found to be partially at fault for the accident. Georgia has what is known as a Modified Comparative Fault Law, which allows you to recover compensation for accidents where you are found to be partially at fault.
When this happens, insurance claims adjusters will review all evidence, including what the police have turned over. If they determine the drivers share fault, the compensation paid in a settlement is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault each driver is assigned. As long as you are 49% or less to blame for the accident, you are able to receive compensation.
Is There a Time Limit?
In Georgia, personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of two years. This means that any claims you settle must occur within 24 months of the accident itself. Because of this, citations will need to be issued well before this time limit to ensure there is enough time for court proceedings. While they can sometimes take months, police investigations into accidents should not take this long, leaving you plenty of time.
One way that you can help the process move smoothly is by obtaining thorough medical records. When your diagnosis and treatment are well documented, it helps make your case stronger and increases your chances of compensation. By showing you received treatment for whiplash, head trauma, or any other injuries, you will be better able to prove suffering as a result of the accident. Even if you are partially at fault, it is important to seek this case because you can be compensated via the Modified Comparative Fault Law.
At AICA Marietta, our team of chiropractors and medical specialists work with victims of car accidents daily. Whether you are seeking diagnostic scans, treatment for whiplash, or physical therapy, our multidisciplinary team will be able to provide a personalized treatment plan and the documentation needed to help your case. Contact us today.