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What should I do if the other driver leaves the scene of an accident, exchanges information with me but leaves before the police arrive?

Our firm has recently been hired by several different clients involved in car accidents, in which immediately after the accident, our client called the police. While waiting for police to arrive, the at-fault driver provided our client a copy of his or her insurance information, allowed our client to take a photo of their driver’s license and tag, and then drove away from the scene prior to police arriving.


These cases were not minor impact cases in which there were no injuries. These were medium-impact collisions in which our clients were hurt. When police arrived to the scene in each of these cases, the officer refused to write a report for some inexplicable reason. On one occasion, the officer claimed he could not get the other driver’s story and, thus, could not write a report. This is completely incorrect and unacceptable.


So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?


O.C.G.A. § 40-6-273 requires that:


“The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $500.00 or more shall immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice of such accident to the local police department if such accident occurs within a municipality. If such accident occurs outside a municipality, such notice shall be given to the office of the county sheriff or to the nearest office of the state patrol.”


For these clients, not only have the officers failed to investigate and cite the at-fault driver for causing the collision, they have also refused to write an accident report of any sort. This laziness can and will cause the injured party problems in the near future, as many insurance companies will fail to properly consider or address claims of damage or injury unless there is a police report.


In the situation where our client has a copy of the at-fault driver driver’s license, the best approach for our client may be to forego filing an insurance claim and instead choose to litigate the matter immediately. The hurried, at-fault driver who left the scene will not appreciate dealing with a lawsuit. It would have been much easier if he or she had stayed at the scene of the wreck and had his or her insurance involved from the get-go. But for our client, this may be the best strategy to ensure our client is appropriately and quickly compensated.


When the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the collision, the officer could cite (and arrest) the driver for hit and run. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270 requires that:


“(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or the death of any person or in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of the accident or shall stop as close thereto as possible and forthwith return to the scene of the accident and shall:

(1) Give his or her name and address and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving;

(2) Upon request and if it is available, exhibit his or her operator’s license to the person struck or the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle collided with;

(3) Render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the transporting, or the making of arrangements for the transporting, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such transporting is requested by the injured person; and

(4) Where a person injured in such accident is unconscious, appears deceased, or is otherwise unable to communicate, make every reasonable effort to ensure that emergency medical services and local law enforcement are contacted for the purpose of reporting the accident and making a request for assistance.

The driver shall in every event remain at the scene of the accident until fulfilling the requirements of this subsection. Every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.”


Thus, exchanging information properly negates the need for this type of interaction to be deemed a hit and run.  However, the troubles with the insurance company are certain to present themselves when an officer refuses to write the accident report or call the at-fault driver for a statement.


So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?


First, call 911 or ask for someone else to call 911. Then use your phone to take photographs and/or video, of the vehicles, any other damage, pictures of the scene, visible injuries, and documentation of anything that could possibly be used as evidence. Depending on the severity of the collision and your injuries, this may not be practical. But do so if you can, provided it is safe.


If there are witnesses present, get the names and contact information of those witnesses, especially if they witnessed the other driver refuse to remain at the scene. These witnesses can be useful when it comes time to process the claim or litigate the matter in court.  You should try to persuade the other driver to remain at the scene. While at the scene of the accident, you can alert your own insurance company of the collision, and can inform them that the other driver is refusing to remain at the scene.


If the other driver leaves the scene of the collision before you can get any information – a true hit and run – then your uninsured motorist coverage comes into play. If you are not sure if you have uninsured motorist coverage, stop reading this article immediately and contact your insurance company. Uninsured motorist coverage will be your only avenue to recovery if you are injured by a hit and run driver (this would also apply to drivers who do not have insurance at all).


Although Georgia law does not require you to carry uninsured motorist coverage, failing to have this coverage is the type of mistake that could cost you thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This coverage should not be considered optional when there are thousands of drivers on Georgia’s roads at any given time who, if they hit you, will leave you with no way to recover for your medical bills from them.


Getting back to the issue at hand, it is important that you insist that the officer make a report. Not insisting on a report may seem like the polite thing to do, especially when dealing with a police officer, but in the end that decision can hit you hard in the pocketbook. We represent many clients who come to our firm after a vehicle collision who wish they could go back to those important moments immediately after the accident and do things a different way.


When you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile accident due to the negligence of someone else, call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.


What Happens If I Am the Victim of a Hit and Run?

The number of hit and run accidents that take place in metro Atlanta is staggering.  We see clients far more often than we would expect after car wrecks where the other driver takes off into the night.  Sometimes, these wrecks are minor, but often, they involve serious collisions with no other driver in sight when the officer arrives at the scene.

Hit and run drivers may take off for various reasons, possibly because they are driving without a valid license or insurance.  They may be aware that there are warrants for their arrest for something minor, or perhaps something serious.  There are many excuses why the other driver does not stick around, but none of those reasons excuse the irresponsible behavior.

Now, the important thing here is that, if the other driver takes off, there is likely only one insurance company that can even possibly be involved to make things right for an injured driver or passenger.  This is the driver’s, or sometimes the passenger’s, own insurance company.  This would be a UM, or uninsured motorist, claim with the insured party’s insurance company.  If there is no UM coverage, then there would be no real avenue of recovery in this situation.  We see far too many of these sorts of cases.  After all, many hit and runs are based upon the other driver not having any insurance.  Given that this is why they leave the scene in the first place, knowing the identity of the driver is only one factor in figuring out how best to get compensation for our clients who are injured.

Every once in a while, a hit and run driver is caught just after the wreck.  This makes for a great case, as the other driver has now opened himself or herself up to claims for punitive damages.  Not only may this driver, and the insurance company, find themselves questioning the responsible driver regarding the injuries sustained, but they do so while having to explain why they did not feel the need to hang around for the police.

In one memorable case, we represented a young woman in a wreck where a hit and run driver was followed by an off duty police officer.  He faced the officer from the inside of his garage as the door closed, as the officer told him that the police were notified and on their way.  The police did come and arrest the young man, and after suit was filed and depositions were taken, it was clear that this young man was responsible for all damages.  The insurance company was not happy with the situation, but they ended up paying policy limits instead of explaining why the young man was just scared and that he should not be responsible for punitive damages.

Unfortunately, it is rare that the hit and run driver is actually caught.  Atlanta Police Department has a special unit devoted to hit and run accidents.  Although you may think this means that they are catching the majority of these folks, the existence of this unit suggests rather how widespread the problem is.  They may take the reports, but even their focus is on the most serious of cases with the most serious injuries.  Most of these reports will just languish from a criminal justice and accountability standpoint.

For our purposes, although we believe strongly in accountability from a criminal justice standpoint, we are most concerned with getting proper compensation for our injured clients.  This is only possible when our clients have proper insurance coverage.

When you or someone you know is involved in an automobile collision due to the negligence of someone else, seek medical attention as soon as possible, follow the advice of your medical professionals, and call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.

What happens to my case if I have been in a car wreck before?

If you have had a driver’s license for any significant amount of time, the chances are you have been in some sort of car accident or collision in the past.  It may have been something minor, or perhaps a more serious wreck where you were injured and recovery took more time and treatment than you anticipated.  I say this because, unfortunately, car wrecks, especially here in the metro Atlanta and DeKalb area, are extremely common.  Drivers are tired, impatient, distracted by cell phones and other things, and often inattentive when they disregard safety rules and traffic laws.  This means that, despite your best efforts to drive carefully and avoid collisions, you cannot control what the other drivers around you are doing.

When you are in a car accident, the law in Georgia is that the party responsible for the wreck is legally responsible for the damages that they cause to you.  So, if you were injured in a previous wreck, or if you have some other unrelated injury that is aggravated by the impact in a later accident, the other driver is liable for that aggravation.  Often, this comes down to a question of what proof can be demonstrated that the other driver is not being held accountable for an unrelated injury, but with thorough documentation, proper treatment, and diligent investigation and legal work, this is usually not a problem.

As an example, we represented Camilla M., who had undergone surgery for an unrelated medical condition just prior to a serious car wreck.  The wreck not only caused her significant injuries to her lower back, but required additional procedures to restore the original work done by the surgeon.  Significantly, as she was still recovering from surgery at the time of the accident, she was unable to engage in the typical treatment which occurs after an accident.  This meant that she experienced additional pain, discomfort, trouble and delay in recovery than a person in her situation might typically have had.  Because of this, her damages were more substantial.

Although we had to litigate the case, we were able to resolve it favorably before trial. It meant that we had to gather all the evidence to demonstrate what a jury was going to see in order to persuade the insurance adjuster that this was not just any other car accident case that they undervalue day in and day out.  This is not typical, but no two cases are ever identical, no matter how similar the injuries or the circumstances.

When you or someone you know is involved in an automobile collision due to the negligence of someone else, seek medical attention as soon as possible, follow the advice of your medical professionals, and call the experienced trial attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.


If you are injured as a result of another person’s negligence, you are entitled under Georgia law to recover all damages that flow from that injury. Typically, this is referred to as a personal injury claim.

In Georgia, especially in the metro Atlanta area, many personal injury claims result from car wrecks. So, what happens if you are injured in a car wreck that is not your fault, and you don’t have car insurance?

The most pressing matter you will face will not be related to your personal injury claim. It is illegal in Georgia to drive without insurance. It is possible – and even likely – that you would be arrested at the scene of the auto collision even if you did not cause the wreck, due to lack of car insurance.

Having said that, your car insurance protects your assets when you are at fault for a car wreck. If someone else is at fault for the wreck, and you are injured as a result of the wreck, you would still have a valid personal injury claim against the negligent driver.

Personal injury cases are complex. You should consult with a trusted attorney about the specific facts of your case. Call the experienced trial attorneys in DeKalb County at the DeWoskin Law Firm: 404-987-0026.

“I have Uninsured Motorist (UM) Insurance Coverage, so I’m good, right?” Maybe not.

You have heard all the nightmare stories about people who do not carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.  You have read the articles or listened to personal details of Georgians who were rear ended by drunk drivers whose licenses were suspended at the time of the accident, or perhaps people who were hit by someone driving a stolen car, and the injured person was left with thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills with no way to recover for any of their injuries.  So, you did the responsible thing and made sure you purchased uninsured motorist coverage.  Problem solved, right?  Well, maybe.

There are two types of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in Georgia, generally, and they are frequently referred to as “Add On” or “Reduced By” UM.  In an “Add On” situation, you pay for an additional $25,000 UM coverage or more.  So if the at-fault driver hits you and only has $25,000 in coverage, but your damages exceed that $25,000 mark, you would be covered for up to an additional $25,000.  Thus, there would be a total of $50,000 in coverage.

In a “Reduced By” situation, given the same factors as above, your $25,000 UM coverage is reduced by the coverage that the at fault driver has.  This means that you would get $25,000 from the at-fault driver, but since your policy is only $25,000 of “Reduced By” UM coverage, there is no additional coverage at all.  If your “Reduced By” UM was for $50,000 coverage, you would have an additional $25,000 in UM, after it was first reduced by the $25,000 afforded under the at-fault driver’s policy.

Although this can be confusing, it is extremely important that you understand the coverage you currently have.  Speak with your insurance company and be certain that you have the coverage you want.  Clearly, “Add On” UM coverage is superior and will go much farther toward protecting you in the event that you are hit by a driver with insufficient coverage.  As always, if you have any questions about a DeKalb or Atlanta car accident, you are always encouraged to call the DeWoskin Law Firm to speak with one of our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys.

What takes place in a personal injury deposition?

If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit as a result of being injured in a car wreck or any other incident in which you are injured as a result of another person’s negligence, it is likely you will be questioned by opposing counsel in a deposition.

Any number of people may be deposed as part of a personal injury lawsuit – you, the defendant, witnesses, and experts (doctors, accident reconstructionists) are the most likely people to be deposed. Each deposition type is different. If you are deposed as the plaintiff, you will be in a room with a court reporter (whose job is to transcribe what everyone says), your attorney, and the defendant’s attorney.

You will be placed under oath just as you would be if you were testifying in court. Opposing counsel will ask you a series of questions. Some of the questions will be designed to learn more about you personally: your education, your employment history, etc. Some of the questions will focus on how the car wreck took place. Many of the questions will focus on your injuries, the medical treatment you received, and the current status of your health as it relates to the injuries you suffered in the wreck.

The answers you give can be used against you if you were to testify differently at trial. For that reason, it is important to thoroughly prepare with your attorneys prior to being deposed. Your attorneys should review the above matters with you, as well as your responses to any written discovery, any exhibits that might be used at trial such as the crash report filed by the responding officer, any photos taken of the scene, and your medical records.

Your testimony during a personal injury deposition can make or break your case. Even if you are doing your best to answer honestly, failure to prepare for the deposition can be costly because you may forget certain details.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle collision in DeKalb County, the Atlanta metro area, or anywhere in Georgia, reach out to the DeWoskin Law Firm. Let us guide you through the process and maximize your recovery. Call us at 404-987-0026.

Texting While Driving

Most Georgia drivers are now aware of the law that took effect in 2018 making it illegal to text or operate a cellphone or similar device while driving.  O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 makes it illegal to even “physically hold or support, with any part of the body” a wireless communications device.  It should go without saying that using the phone to text or use a navigation app is also prohibited.

What you may not know is that law enforcement officers and some select others are excluded from this law.  When cops, firefighters, or emergency medical services technicians are driving, they are permitted to use their phones or other devices without fear of violating the law, provided it takes place “during the performance of his or her official duties.”  In the months and years to come, there will almost certainly be scores of cases and legal decisions that narrow down just what this last phrase means.  Was the officer talking to another officer in an emergency situation, or was he or she asking his or her boyfriend or girlfriend what restaurant they should go to on Friday night?

What we know for certain is that driving distracted, especially while texting or looking at a cellphone, is one of the most dangerous activities any driver can engage in.  In fact, we might all prefer to be on the road with drunken drivers who are paying attention than sober drivers who can’t be bothered to be concerned for other drivers and pedestrians who might cross their path while they check the score of a game, look up a recipe, or post on social media as they cruise across Georgia roads and highways.

Take a look at this video (*STRONG LANGUAGE WARNING): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoSOEtzWPlU

Vigilance while driving is vital to safety on our roadways.  Any parent of a teen driver will tell you that it is not just your driving you need to worry about, but everyone else on the roads.  If you are injured in a DeKalb County car accident, or a car accident in any county in the State of Georgia, it is important that you contact a knowledgeable attorney who will consider how the collision took place.  It may not always be as obvious, or as documented as the video posted above.  The fact that the at-fault driver in the video was a law enforcement officer only demonstrates that, even though they are exempt under many circumstances from the laws against texting and driving, they are not exempt from the dangers that law is designed to prevent.

If you have been in a car accident and have questions about liability or how to recover damages for your injuries, call Dan DeWoskin and Alex Merritt for a free consultation.

What happens if the at-fault driver does not have insurance?

In Georgia, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle without auto insurance in the amount of at least $25,000.00. Keep in mind that the auto insurance you carry protects your assets in the event you cause a collision.

But what if you are injured in a wreck caused by someone else, and the at-fault driver does not have insurance? If the other driver does not have insurance, who will pay for your medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the wreck?

The first possible answer to these questions is still the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver is still responsible for compensating you for any damages arising from his or her negligent driving. But, in this hypothetical situation, there is no insurance company to provide funds. So the issue for you becomes whether or not the at-fault driver is financially capable of fully compensating you.

If the at-fault driver has no money, no income, and no assets, then the at-fault driver will have no way to pay you even if you were able to get a judgment against him or her. And while there are exceptions to the rule, it is more likely than not that a person driving around without insurance has little to nothing to protect. In the legal profession, we call this type of person “judgment proof.” That is, even if you get a judgment against this person, there will be no way to collect your money.

So, what do you do if the at-fault driver is judgment proof? If the at-fault driver has no insurance (or not enough insurance), then you can recover using your UM policy, if you have a UM policy. “UM” can stand for Uninsured Motorist or Underinsured Motorist (although both are not exactly the same). UM is an add-on to a standard insurance policy, and it would be a part of your policy.  If you are reading this and do not have UM (or do not know if you have UM), you should strongly consider adding this provision to your policy. You should call your insurance agent and get that set up.

A UM provision provides coverage to you when you are injured by an at-fault driver that does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance. A UM provision can also be used when you are injured by a hit-and-run driver.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how to handle a motor vehicle collision when the
at-fault driver lacks appropriate insurance coverage. If you or someone you know has been involved in a motor vehicle collision, reach out to the DeWoskin Law Firm. Let us guide you through the process and maximize your recovery. Call us at 404-987-0026.

Gwinnett County Solicitor’s Office will not prosecute many marijuana cases for the time being

Where a crime takes place in Georgia, and most places, is an extremely important question.  Yesterday, the Gwinnett County Solicitor General announced that the prosecutors will not prosecute marijuana possession cases with arrest dates of May 10, 2019 or after due to a law change that pertains to THC levels. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/gwinnett-county/this-metro-county-will-not-prosecute-any-more-marijuana-cases-for-now/974261373.

In essence, it is now more difficult for the State to establish  through its available tests beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance the defendant possesses is an illegal substance as opposed to a legal substance, such as hemp.

Now, other counties and municipalities in Georgia, such as our own DeKalb County, Fulton County, and even Atlanta may follow suit.  However, Cherokee County is not likely to adopt this view.  In most Georgia counties, a misdemeanor marijuana charge would carry a fine, perhaps some community service, and, in the most serious cases, such as a repeat offender situation, a period of time on probation.  In Cherokee, we see negotiated plea offers that require random drug tests, significant jail time (30+ days), exorbitant fines, requirements to attend drug court, and DUI Risk Reduction School, even when the charge has nothing to do with the defendant driving.

It is extremely important that an attorney be familiar with the venue in which a criminal case, or even a civil case, is pending.  There can be a huge discrepancy between how one county deals with a particular charge and how another county would address the same matter.  In some circumstances, this disparity in how things are handled can vary from one judge’s courtroom to another.  The knowledge of how to respond and react in these circumstances is something that comes with experience, knowledge of the jurors in a specific county, awareness of the local customs and practices of the court, and connections with others who are most familiar with the venue.

If you or someone close to you has been charged with a marijuana offense, or any criminal offense, call the DeWoskin Law Firm for a consultation.  We have the experience and expertise to provide sound legal guidance as to the best manner of defending the case.  If the charges do come out of a venue with which we are not familiar, we know how to get you to the person most knowledgeable, reliable, and capable of handling the matter.

UPDATE: I am pleased to announce that Cobb County and Dekalb County, my backyard, are two jurisdictions in Georgia among others that have made similar announcements with respect to the prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana cases.  This is a developing issue in the law and one that is likely to call for many more updates.  For the time being, we would expect them to be developments suggesting a halt to such prosecutions, but tests that satisfy evidentiary standards do exist, and thus vigilance is required for anyone charged with these offenses.

Should I settle my debt with Bank of America or American Express?

Bank of America and American Express are first party debt collectors, meaning that if and when they file suit against you, they are the original lenders seeking to collect their own debts.  Thus, these are often tougher cases to beat in court.  However, before agreeing to settle or pay even a first party debt, there is information you should have or verify.

First, you should always be cautious when speaking to any debt collector on the phone.  They will usually require extremely private information from you to verify who you are, or looking for information they may not have, such as your address or place of employment.   Meanwhile, you will never get simple information from them, such as the representatives first and last name, employee identification number, direct number, etc.  When you are at this kind of a disadvantage, it is better to tell them absolutely nothing and insist that any and all communication be in writing.  If they then ask you to confirm your mailing address, you should always refuse.  The true and valid debt collector should have it.  DO NOT be persuaded to bypass this rule.  Debt collectors are trained in how to play off your concerns about what could happen or make you think they are there to help.  They are there to collect money.  They are not on the lookout for your best interests.

Second, you should ensure that you have true and correct copies of the documents supporting their claims against you before ever agreeing to what is owed or how you will pay them.  If you went to a restaurant, you would not just look at the total of the bill at the end of a meal.  You would look to ensure that so much as an extra iced tea wasn’t added to your bill if it was not ordered and received.  Well, this is the same thing.  You may not need to read over every charge of every bill as you may do monthly when you receive credit card statements, but you should know what is being charged, claimed, and what it is related to before you decide whether or not to pay it.

Third, make sure that any resolution you agree to is in writing, and that it fully resolves the debt such that it won’t be resold to someone else or that they can pursue you for the remaining balance.  What you want to prevent is a judgment being entered against you, or perhaps even the chance that you will be sued again.  In Georgia, a case may be dismissed with or without prejudice.  “Without prejudice” means that the case can be refiled at a later time even though it is the same case or controversy.  So, before signing or agreeing to anything, know that “the lawyer told me this” or “Sandy at Bank of America told me that” will not be the beginning of a successful argument defending against a debt at a later time.

Finally, it is best to have the input and guidance of an experienced attorney when trying to make sure that you are doing what is best for you under the circumstances.  Sometimes, that may mean speaking to a couple of attorneys.  For instance, my firm does not practice bankruptcy, but we can identify when it is best for some potential clients to forego hiring us to instead retain the services of a qualified bankruptcy attorney.  Also, you should be certain your attorney is competent.  A simple Google search can give you insight into an attorney’s reputation for ethics and professionalism, whether or not the attorney has been sanctioned or disbarred in the past, or whether or not the attorney holds himself or herself out in a professional light.  Paying attention to these things can prevent further headache and harm.  Nobody ever wants to spend good money after bad.  If you have any questions regarding these types of debts, please call us at the DeWoskin Law Firm, (404) 987-0026.

See also Blog Post dated 05/23/2018 and 06/08/2018

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