You likely know that crash victims can seek compensation for their injuries. But you may not know what that compensation can include.
In Georgia, as most places, victims can seek compensation for their damages. The law says these damages may be “either general or special, direct or consequential.” The courts then interpret this by dividing these damages into three general categories. Depending on your circumstances, you may deserve compensation for one, two or all three types of damages.
Economic damages include all the concrete expenses you accrue as the result of your injury. These are things that are more easily measured:
- Medical treatment
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Property damage, such as to your vehicle
- Home or car adjustments to accommodate any resulting disability
As some of these items suggest, it’s important to consider any future expenses directly related to the crash. If a crash leaves you unable to work, your lost wages may not just be the past wages up until the time you file. They may also include the future wages you will be unable to earn.
You might wonder if you can still claim medical expenses if your health insurance helped cover them. The answer is, “Yes.” However, it’s worth noting that if you receive compensation for your medical expenses, your insurance provider will likely file to get its money back. This is a process called subrogation, and a skilled attorney can typically negotiate with the insurance to reduce the amount they claim.
Whereas economic damages have reasonably clear price tags, non-economic damages are harder to measure. Even so, these damages often comprise the larger portion of your claim.
This is part of the reason it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney, rather than accepting an early settlement offer from the insurance. Insurance companies frequently undervalue non-economic damages:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish
- Reduced quality of life
As you can see, these are items that don’t come with an obvious price tag. Accordingly, Georgia says that you and your attorney can explain the value of these damages. The other party’s insurance is bound to argue for a lower value, so it’s important to understand how the courts view the evidence and how your case compares to other, similar cases.
Punitive damages are rare, and they do not primarily aim at compensating crash victims. Instead, as Georgia’s laws note, punitive damages exist only in cases where “clear and convincing evidence” shows that the defendant acted out of “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression,” or such gross negligence as to demonstrate a “conscious indifference to consequences.”
Notably, the law says that these damages are intended solely to “punish, penalize, or deter” wrongful behaviors. It also caps the amount of punitive damages at $250,000, unless the case involved product liability, a specific intent to cause harm or the influence of certain drugs.
What are these damages actually worth?
By now, you can likely imagine how the full cost of a crash can exceed the insurance company’s settlement offer. Even if the offer looks large, it likely minimizes future economic damages, as well as your non-economic damages. If the crash owes to truly awful behavior, you may want to file for punitive damages. An insurance settlement will almost never anticipate those.
As a result, the Insurance Research Council released a study in 2014 which found that crash victims who worked with an attorney recovered 3.5 times as much as victims who settled on their own. That’s the average, so some cases were more. Others were less. But the numbers help show the value of working with a seasoned attorney.
Ultimately, getting the full extent of the compensation you deserve is a matter of understanding the different types of damages, understanding the law, understanding the values of similar cases and compiling the evidence in such a way as to make a clear and compelling argument. You may not need to go to trial to get the compensation you deserve, but you will need to do your homework ahead of any negotiations.
If you have been injured in an accident, talk with the experienced lawyers at Davis, Chapman, and Wilder, LLC in Augusta, GA to bring a personal injury claim and obtain the compensation your family deserves.