A car accident can happen in an instant and when it does, it will leave you with serious injuries and immense pain. It is natural to feel overwhelmed and wonder how you are going to pay for your medical expenses, probably at a time when you are not able to work. Fortunately, you have a legal right to claim financial compensation, known as damages, for these losses.
Many car accident victims are unaware of the type of compensation they are eligible for after a crash. Below are the most common types of damages you can claim after a car accident, and guidelines on whether or not you will have to file a lawsuit to claim them.
What Damages Can You Get for Your Georgia Car Accident?
A car accident victim in Georgia is entitled to two types of damages—special or “economic” and general or “noneconomic” damages. Economic damages are the tangible losses you can prove through medical bills, doctor’s notes, and lost time from work. Noneconomic damages are less concrete. They can include compensation for emotional pain and suffering, PTSD, and other conditions. In rare cases, a victim can also ask for punitive damages.
Special or Economic Damages
The following are examples of special or economic damages you may be awarded after a car accident:
It is crucial that you seek medical attention immediately after any crash. However, doing so will likely cause you to incur many expenses. These may include the cost of the ambulance, hospital expenses, doctor’s visits, surgery, medication, and ongoing treatment. If your injuries are very serious, your recovery could take years and you may incur additional medical expenses during that time. You can include both past and future medical expenses in your claim for damages.
Rehabilitation therapy can include long-term treatments needed to walk again, speech therapy, and work-specific training after an accident. Rehabilitation therapy can be ongoing and last a long time. Or it can be for a short duration, depending on the type and severity of your injury.
Long-term care can include convalescent homes, at-home nursing care, and 24-hour care. For example, suppose a victim needs help performing daily tasks or needs to be watched around the clock for safety reasons after a permanent injury. In that case, their request for economic damages may include those costs.
During a crash, your vehicle is likely going to sustain extensive damage. You can request compensation for these damages and if your vehicle is considered a write-off, you can claim the cost of replacing your vehicle. You can also include any other property damage in your claim, such as your smartphone if it was damaged during the accident.
Current and Future Lost Income
After suffering a serious injury, you will likely have to take time off work to recover. You can include your lost wages, benefits, bonuses, sick days, vacation days, and more as part of your claim.
You can ask for compensation to reimburse you for any medications a doctor prescribes to treat physical or emotional injuries caused by your accident. You may need a prescription for a short period, such as painkillers and antibiotics. Or you may need a long-term prescription to address physical and mental changes caused by your car accident injury.
General or Noneconomic Damages
As mentioned above, medical expenses, property damages, and lost income are known as special damages because they have a concrete dollar value and are easy to calculate. There is another type of damages you can claim, and they are known as general damages. General damages are still losses, but they do not have an actual dollar value so they are much more difficult to calculate. The most common types of general damages in car accident claims are as follows:
- Emotional pain and suffering. A severe accident can cause anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, anger, and frustration. To cover these damages, you can request compensation for mental anguish in a claim.
- Physical pain and suffering. A serious accident can cause pain and suffering that lasts for years or even decades after a car accident. If you can establish that your pain is likely to linger long-term, you can request compensation for these damages in your claim.
- Disability and disfigurement. Burns, amputations, and other catastrophic injuries can result in permanent disability and disfigurement. These injuries can cause embarrassment and shame for accident victims, and can be included in your claim.
- Loss of companionship. If a loved one was killed in a crash, or they are injured so seriously they can no longer engage in intimate relations with their partner, a claim can include damages for loss of companionship.
In the majority of cases, an insurance claim can provide these full damages. However, there are times when you may have to file a lawsuit to claim the full settlement you deserve.
Punitive and Exemplary Damages
In rare cases, courts may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages are commonly referred to as “exemplary damages.” A court awards them when it finds the defendant has engaged in grossly reckless conduct or otherwise displayed a disregard for the lives of others. Courts award punitive damages to punish the defendant for negligent or malicious behavior. Punitive damages are rare in car accident cases and are usually only awarded in certain drunk driving and hit-and-run accidents.
When to Sue for Damages
Georgia is an at-fault auto insurance state, which means to claim damages, you will have to file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company to claim damages.
Being an at-fault insurance state also means your damages may be reduced or eliminated if an investigation finds you are partly or mostly at fault for causing the accident. So while you may still be able to file a claim against a party who is 52% more responsible than you for causing the accident, an insurance company may reduce your settlement by the percentage their investigation determines you were responsible. In other words, if your damages amount to $50,000 and their research finds you are 48% at fault, your settlement amount would be $24,000.
In the best of cases, you can claim the full damages you need from the insurer and will not have to take further action. Unfortunately, there are times when you may have to file a lawsuit to claim the financial compensation you deserve. These include when:
- The negligent party does not have proper insurance: Georgia law outlines the minimum amounts of auto insurance all drivers must carry, but not all motorists comply with these laws. If the driver that caused the crash did not carry proper insurance, or did not carry the proper minimum amounts of insurance, you can file a lawsuit directly against the negligent party.
- You were not offered a fair settlement: Insurance companies are notorious for denying accident victims the fair settlement they need to recover from their injuries. When an insurer refuses to offer a fair settlement that will fully cover the costs of your injuries, you can file a lawsuit against the company.
While the above two situations are the most common when accident victims must file a lawsuit after a crash, they are not the only ones. An Atlanta car accident lawyer can review the facts of your case and advise you of your legal options.
Georgia Statute of Limitations
Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury claims. This means you have two years from the time of your car accident to file your claim. If you do not file your claim during these two years, you will likely lose your right to compensation. The only exception is for minors. Georgia considers a person a minor until they turn 18. When a car accident injures a minor, the statute of limitation does not start to run until they turn 18. This means a minor’s parent or guardian may file for them at the time of the accident or wait until the minor turns 18 and allow them to file their own claim.
What is The Average Settlement in Georgia Car Accident Cases?
If you’ve been in a car accident and suffered damages, you may ask yourself, What is the average compensation I can expect from my car accident? As with many legal questions, the answer is “it depends.” According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average personal injury car accident claim nationwide in 2020 settled for $20,235. That year, the average car accident settlement for property damage came in at $4,711. However, because every case is unique, the average settlement in Georgia car accident cases varies.
Special damages have an economic basis, and adjusters and investigators can objectively confirm them through estimates, doctor bills, invoices, and other financial statements. For this reason, you can expect your special or economic damages to amount to whatever an insurance company or court can objectively verify.
Calculating the costs of general or noneconomic damages is more complicated. General damages will also vary depending on your specific situation.
Since general damages are harder to prove, providing a court with proof to support your claim is essential. Persuasive evidence can include:
- Therapist’s notes,
- Doctor’s notes,
- Medical bills,
- A medical prognosis,
- Expert testimony,
- Videos that document a victim’s pain, and
- Personal journals that document a victim’s pain.
While noneconomic damages are more complicated to prove than economic damages, they can also have a larger impact on an accident victim’s life and, as a result, can be worth more than economic damages. For this reason, working with a skilled, well-informed car accident attorney can improve your chances of collecting the general compensation you deserve.
Our Car Accident Lawyers in Atlanta Can Help You Claim Full Damages
At MG Law, our skilled Georgia car crash attorneys know that recovering from a car accident is stressful. After a crash, you have the legal right to pursue financial compensation, but doing so is not always easy. That’s why our team of knowledgeable advocates offers leadership and expertise when you need it most. We focus solely on personal injury cases. At MG Law, our Atlanta car accident lawyers will go up against the insurance company for you, and advise when it is time to take further legal action. Call us today at 404-982-4219 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.