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Many people think of lawyers in adversarial roles, arguing one side or the other in a courtroom dispute. But there are times when a lawyer can play a more personal hand-holding role, simply helping someone get through a major crisis or big decision in their life.

For those situations, it’s important to have trusted, local representation. Gainesville, Ga.-based law firm Stewart Melvin & Frost works to develop a unique attorney-client relationship with numerous benefits – such as the firm’s extensive regional connections and well-established reputation — that many people may not realize until faced with difficult legal circumstances.

Whether it’s dealing with the aftermath of an auto accident, going through a divorce, buying a house or probating a will, an attorney can help you sort through difficult issues and let you focus on the decision at hand.

Sometimes, people can’t think clearly enough in these stressful situations and they need good objective, third-party advice and professional legal guidance.

Most lawyers are not like the slick characters that you see advertised on TV. They are compassionate, caring professionals who can play an important role in resolving challenging conflicts.

Talk to people you trust and get a recommendation for an attorney whom they may have worked with in the past. Next, interview the attorney before deciding to hire him or her. Find out if they are experienced in the practice area you need and whether you feel a good rapport together. When difficult decisions need to be made, an attorney can be a trusted advisor as well as a friend.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If and when an accident occurs, what should I do?
In the aftermath of an accident, you should immediately begin gathering information and evidence as you are able. If you can, take photos of the accident scene to record evidence. Write down contact information of the people involved and witnesses.

First and foremost, take care of yourself. Medical assistance should be a priority. If you are transported by medical personnel from the accident scene, you may use the police report later to get information. If you decline to be transported for medical assistance, see your personal doctor as soon as possible to be examined.

What is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a court filing seeking to compensate the victim of an accident.
When should I contact an attorney?
As soon as practical, you will need an experienced and trusted legal professional to relieve you of such burdens as pressing phone calls and endless paperwork related to insurance matters and medical bills.

Move quickly to designate this professional as your point person. Your attorney will get a head start gathering and reviewing critical, time-sensitive information – allowing you to better focus on recovery.

If contacted, whom should I speak with about my claim?
You should immediately contact your personal insurance agent about the event but allow your attorney to handle discussions with insurance companies, particularly any insurance company representing the other parties involved in the personal injury or wrongful death related to your crisis.
What will the process be?
After the lawsuit is filed in court, the opposing side will be served with a copy of the lawsuit. The defendant is required to file a reply with the court. During this time, you should be helping your attorney gather evidence and contact witnesses.

At some point, both sides may approach each other to resolve the case by reaching a settlement, thereby avoiding a trial. There is also the option of mediation as a way to resolve a dispute. If you settle the case, you collect payment and the case ends. If your case goes to trial, your lawyer presents your case and asks the jury for a fair outcome.

What can I do to help my attorney and my claim?
Keep detailed notes and medical paperwork involved with your case. Keep copies of medical bills, doctors’ notes, invoices and copays. Log the dates and times of all doctors’ appointments and medical treatments.

Keep all your documents organized to make for more efficient meetings with your attorney.

What are the chances of my case going to trial?
Most personal injury cases are settled before a trial. If a case does go to trial, it is because the facts are in dispute or there is a contested legal issue that the court must review and issue an opinion.

More than likely, the two parties will agree on the evidence of the claim and reach a settlement.

How long does a personal injury case take to reach a settlement?
Each situation is different. In some cases, your attorney can reach a settlement with the other side or insurance company in a matter of weeks.

Other cases can continue for a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case or the facts in question. As the plaintiff in the case, you typically have more control over the duration of the case because you can accept or reject settlement offers.

Is there a statute of limitations for a personal injury claim in Georgia?
In Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years to file a lawsuit. If there is a claim against the government, the statute of limitations is one year. If you do not file within the allowed time, your case will likely be dismissed unless there are extenuating circumstances that could not possibly have been discovered earlier.