Were you in a car accident in the State of Georgia and need to obtain…
Pursuing compensation for car accident injuries can be a long and frustrating process in Georgia. Insurance companies try to settle personal injury claims for as little as possible, and the amount car accident victims receive can be reduced substantially if the facts suggest that they were partly to blame. Even when the facts are clear, the negligent party may not carry enough insurance coverage to provide adequate compensation.
Atlanta car accident lawyer Nathan Fitzpatrick has been fighting for car accident victims since 2009, and he knows how hard it can be to obtain fair compensation. In this article, Mr. Fitzpatrick looks at the types of damages awarded to auto accident victims and how they are calculated. He also examines the legal options that car accident victims in Georgia have when filing an insurance claim is impossible or would not provide sufficient compensation.
Understanding Car Accident Compensation: An Overview
If you are injured in a car accident in Georgia that was not your fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury, loss, or damage. To determine fair compensation, you or your attorney will estimate your economic and non-economic damages and then adjust them to reflect your and the other driver’s degree of fault. Once this figure has been arrived at, you can determine whether the negligent driver’s insurance policy has enough coverage to provide adequate compensation. If it does not, filing a lawsuit against the other driver may be your best course of action.
Types of Damages in Car Accidents: Economic vs. Non-Economic
Car accident victims in Georgia are almost always entitled to economic damages and may also be awarded noneconomic and punitive damages. Let’s take a closer look at the three types of car accident compensation:
- Economic damages: These damages are paid to compensate auto accident victims for out-of-pocket expenses like medical expenses, which can include costs for emergency treatment, ongoing medical care, and rehabilitation. They also cover car repair costs, medical expenses for any long-term care required, and income lost because injuries prevented victims from working.
- Noneconomic damages: Instead of tangible out-of-pocket expenses like medical expenses, these damages are paid to compensate accident victims for their pain and suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
- Punitive damages: Juries award punitive damages to punish negligent parties rather than compensate their victims. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in cases based on the tort of negligence. Still, they may be awarded to civil plaintiffs who are injured in road rage incidents or hurt in drunk driving accidents. Drunk or enraged drivers are considered to act with gross negligence or intent, so Georgia law indicates that they deserve punishment.
The Role of Fault in Car Accident Claims: Georgia's 'At Fault' and 'Modified Comparative Fault' Rules
Georgia is an at-fault state, which means people injured in car accidents caused by others are always entitled to compensation in the Peach State. This is why police officers in Georgia must allocate blame when dispatched to car collision scenes.
Georgia follows the modified comparative negligence doctrine, which does not allow civil litigants to recover damages suffered in accidents they were primarily responsible for. The modified comparative negligence doctrine states that you can recover damages if you are injured in a car crash. However, the amount you are eligible to receive will be proportionally adjusted based on your degree of fault in the accident.
For example, if the jury determines that fair compensation would be $20,000 and you were 10% responsible for causing the accident, you would be awarded $18,000. If the facts suggest that you bear more than 50% of the blame for causing a car wreck, you would not be able to recover damages under Georgia’s modified comparative fault rule.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Georgia: Protecting Yourself After an Auto Accident
You have the right to recover compensation after being injured in a Georgia car accident. The amount will be contingent on the severity of your injuries and the negligent party’s ability to pay. However, few people can pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to accident victims, so insurance companies pay most compensation in personal injury cases.
In response to insurance companies' obligations and other related factors, Georgia law requires motorists to maintain auto insurance that includes at least $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, and $25,000 of property damage coverage per accident. Unfortunately, these amounts may not be enough to provide you with adequate compensation if you suffer severe injuries in a traffic accident or are hurt while behind the wheel of an expensive car.
Quantifying Pain and Suffering: How Courts Evaluate Non-Economic Damages
Compensation for medical expenses, vehicle repairs, and lost income is determined by scrutinizing documents like medical bills, repair estimates, and pay stubs. However, assigning a dollar figure to pain and suffering or mental anguish is much more difficult. When they calculate noneconomic damages, insurance companies usually use one of the following two methods:
- The multiplier method: To calculate noneconomic damages using this method, the economic damages are multiplied by between 1 and 5. A lower multiplier is used when injuries are minor, and a higher figure is used when serious injuries cause discomfort for a long time.
- The per diem method: When the per diem method is used to calculate noneconomic damages, a dollar figure is determined to compensate accident victims for the pain or emotional distress they suffered each day. This figure is then multiplied by the number of days that physical pain or mental anguish was endured.
The Importance of Consultation with an Attorney: Maximizing Your Compensation
Based on the Insurance Information Institute's data, the average settlement for a personal injury car accident claim in 2019 was $18,417, and the average property damage auto accident settlement amounted to $4,525.
Meanwhile, the negotiations between the injured party's attorney and the insurance company significantly influence the compensation received. This underscores the importance of hiring professional personal injury lawyers, who are pivotal in maximizing the compensation for a car accident claim. Their expertise and negotiation skills ensure victims receive the highest possible settlement in their auto accident claims.
That said, Georgia car accident victims who seek compensation do not have to hire attorneys to represent them, but they usually do if their injuries are severe and their compensation claims are significant. You will have to pay legal fees or forgo part of your settlement if you ask a car accident lawyer to advocate on your behalf, but you will probably still walk away with more money when all is said and done.
The main reasoning behind this is that experienced personal injury attorneys know how insurance companies negotiate and can deal with the tactics they employ. Settlements and verdicts the Fitzpatrick firm has negotiated or won for victims of car crashes in Georgia include:
- A $3.5 million settlement for a truck accident victim
- A $1.3 million jury award for a motorist injured in a side collision
- $300,000 for a passenger vehicle occupant hurt in a rear-end collision
- A $250,000 policy limit settlement for injuries suffered in a passenger-side collision
Settlement vs. Trial: What's Best for Your Car Accident Case?
The vast majority of car accident claims are resolved at the negotiating table. Juries tend to be more generous than insurance companies, but lawsuits are expensive and can drag on for months. Both sides may threaten to walk away from the table during settlement negotiations, but this rarely happens. This is because accident victims usually want to receive compensation as quickly as possible, and insurance companies are seldom willing to take their chances with a jury.
How Lawyers Assist in Car Accident Claims: Attorney's Role in Achieving Fair Compensation
Personal injury attorneys are indispensable in helping car accident victims secure fair compensation, particularly given the critical importance of timing in legal matters. These attorneys begin by diligently gathering evidence, which should be initiated promptly to ensure compliance with the state's statute of limitations, which requires filing a case within two years of the accident.
Swift action is also vital for securing accurate witness testimony. The effectiveness of a witness diminishes over time as memories fade, so it's crucial for your attorney to contact potential witnesses while the incident is still fresh in their minds. Moreover, the extensive paperwork involved in filing your claim can be time-consuming, underscoring the need to avoid delay.
In addition to evidence gathering, personal injury attorneys engage in thorough negotiations with insurance companies, where the presence of well-documented evidence and timely gathered witness testimony often leads to higher compensation offers.
The expediency of these proceedings is another critical factor. When both sides are represented by skilled negotiators, cases tend to be resolved more swiftly. This aspect is particularly significant considering the time-sensitive nature of filing claims and gathering reliable testimonies, ensuring that victims are not only fairly compensated but also receive that compensation in a timely manner.
Georgia's Limits on Damages: Understanding Caps and Restrictions
In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that capping economic and noneconomic damages in personal injury cases violated the state constitution. The ruling means that juries can award whatever amount they feel is justified to compensate accident victims for their medical expenses, property damage, lost income and pain and suffering.
Georgia’s highest court has also ruled that a $250,000 cap on punitive damages is constitutional. There is an exemption to the punitive damages cap when injuries are caused by an individual under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As such, you could still be awarded this type of compensation if you are injured in a drunk driving accident.
Seeking Compensation for Vehicle Accidents: The Legal Process Explained
If you are injured in a Georgia car accident, and settlement negotiations with the other driver’s insurance company do not lead to an acceptable settlement offer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation. Georgia’s statute of limitations requires car accident lawsuits to be filed within two years, but this time limit may be paused or tolled if the defendant flees or is incarcerated.
The Role of Auto Accident Lawyers: How They Can Help You Navigate the Legal Landscape
The people who file personal injury lawsuits can represent themselves if they like, but most choose to hire a professional to argue on their behalf. If you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver who injured you, an experienced personal injury lawyer with experience in handling car crash cases could assist you by:
- Ensuring that all court documents are completed properly and submitted in a timely manner
- Notifying the defendant about the lawsuit
- Gathering evidence during the discovery period
- Deposing experts and witnesses
- Advocating on your behalf during settlement negotiations
- Presenting evidence and questioning witnesses in court
- Filing an appeal if your case is unsuccessful
The Impact of Fault in Compensation: How Being At-Fault Can Affect Your Settlement
If you were partly responsible for causing the accident that injured you, the amount of compensation you receive will be adjusted under Georgia’s modified comparative negligence rule. If the jury determines that you are 20% to blame, the amount you receive will be reduced by 20%. The opinions of police officers carry a lot of weight when juries are called upon to allocate responsibility, so you should think very carefully before you make admissions at a Georgia car accident scene.
Consultation Essentials: What to Discuss with Your Car Accident Lawyer After a Car Accident
Most personal injury attorneys offer prospective clients free consultations to discuss their legal options. If you attend one of these meetings, you should be completely candid with the lawyer, even if telling the truth could make you look bad. The lawyer will want to know what kind of evidence you have to support your compensation claim, and he or she will be very interested to learn what you said to the police officers dispatched to the scene. Be honest with the attorney about your financial situation and how much you need the money, and provide them with any documents you received from the insurance company involved.
Schedule Your Case Review with an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer from The Fitzpatrick Firm
When dealing with car accident claims, it's essential to have a formidable advocate on your side, as insurance companies employ skilled negotiators who aim to settle claims for the minimum amount possible.
Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Anthony Fitzpatrick at The Fitzpatrick Firm is well-versed in these challenges. Having secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for car accident victims across Georgia, Anthony Fitzpatrick and his team fight relentlessly to ensure their clients receive the full compensation they deserve.
Not limited to Atlanta, Attorney Fitzpatrick handles cases all over the state, providing expert legal assistance wherever needed. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, you can reach The Fitzpatrick Firm at (678) 607-5550 or by filling out the form below.