Learn about the types of damages available to Georgia drivers, including potential damage caps
A car accident can cause minimal damage — or hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses in mere seconds. Because accidents vary greatly in severity, it’s no wonder why the amount of compensation a Georgia car accident victim can receive varies accordingly.
Accident victims are typically awarded economic damages, non-economic damages, and sometimes punitive damages, depending on the facts of their individual case. If you have been involved in a car accident near Macon, Georgia, one of our personal injury lawyers can help you determine which types of compensation you may be entitled to — and how much your case is worth.
Westmoreland Law car accident settlement amounts for wrongful death and personal injury
Types of damages in Georgia car accident cases
Personal injury damages from Georgia car accidents are classified into 2 categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Damages are economic in nature if they can be independently and objectively verified by using invoices, estimates, projections, assessments and other monetary statements. These damages include medical expenses, lost income, loss of earning capacity, lost benefits and property damage statements.
Calculating each of these types of damages can vary greatly depending on your unique situation. The average cost for medical care depends on the nature and extent of your injuries. For example, claims involving spinal cord injuries regularly result in settlements over $1 million, whereas a mild case of whiplash often has a payout of less than $10,000.
That said, here are some average settlement amounts for a few of the most common car accident injuries:
- Whiplash or other minor soft-tissue injury — $2,500 to $20,000
- Mild to moderate concussion — $20,000 to $30,000
- Bone/rib fracture — $15,000 to $100,000
- Moderate neck or back injury — $30,000 to $100,000
- Knee or shoulder injury — $30,000 to $100,000+
- Traumatic brain injury — $100,000+
- Severe back injury — $100,000+
- Spinal cord injury/paralysis — $1,000,000+
- Wrongful death — $500,000 to $1,000,000+
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, refer to intangible losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, inconvenience, loss of consortium and stress and anxiety. Because these losses do not come with financial statements and projections, courts must do their best to quantify how much compensation a victim should be entitled to as a result of experiencing a non-economic loss.
Punitive and exemplary damages
Beyond ordering a defendant in a car accident to pay general damages, such as medical expenses and property repair or replacement costs, courts may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages, which are also commonly referred to as “exemplary damages.” These damages are awarded when the court finds that the defendant has engaged in grossly reckless conduct or otherwise displayed a disregard for the lives of others. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for negligent or malicious behavior.
While rare in most car accident cases, punitive damages may be awarded in certain drunk driving and hit and run cases.
Georgia caps on car accident damages
Some states impose limits on the amount of compensation car accident victims may receive in a personal injury settlement. Georgia law caps punitive damages at $275,000, and 75 percent of these damages must be paid to the state treasury.
However, some exceptions that apply to this cap in Georgia include product liability cases, cases where the defendant specifically intended to cause harm, and car accidents in which the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants.
General and punitive damages remain uncapped in Georgia.
FAQ: Georgia car accident damages and settlements
How much compensation should you expect for your car accident?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average personal injury car accident claim in 2019 settled for $18,417. The average property damage car accident settlement came in at $4,525 that same year.
However, the amount of compensation an accident victim receives is largely dependent on negotiations between the injured party’s attorney and the insurance company, as well as any other parties who have been named as liable in the victim’s claim. To determine an appropriate payout in your case, your attorney will need to carefully gather all of the facts and document your expenses and other related losses.
While past case verdicts and outcomes are no guarantee of the results we can obtain in your car accident claim without knowing more details, we have secured sizable settlements for our clients ranging from $100,000 to $3.25 million.
How are car accident settlements calculated?
Insurance companies often use a settlement formula when calculating the value of a car accident claim. Neck and back injuries, for instance, are assigned a value of 1.5 to 3 times the cost of medical treatment. The value assigned depends on factors such as:
- How much insurance is available (from both drivers)
- The severity of your accident injuries
- Your degree of fault for the accident
- How quickly you sought medical treatment
- Whether your injuries are permanent or long-term
- The type of medical treatment you receive
- Whether you’ve filed prior claims or have had similar injuries
- The amount of evidence proving your injuries and damages
Depending on the extent of the plaintiff’s damages and the insurance company’s willingness to pay, a car accident settlement in Georgia may range from hundreds of dollars (in very minor accident cases) to millions of dollars (in cases where the plaintiff was severely injured or killed by the accident). If the insurance refuses to pay an acceptable amount, the victim’s attorney may opt to proceed to trial and work to convince the court that the accident victim is legally entitled to receive the requested amount of compensation.
It’s also worth noting:
Car accident cases are subject to a statute of limitations. Therefore, it’s best to talk to a car accident attorney about your case as soon as possible.
When you are in an immense amount of pain, filing a claim might be the last thing on your mind. You might not have the mental or emotional capacity to think about the deadline, let alone how you’re going to get through the week.
How much do insurance companies pay for pain and suffering?
The typical payout for pain and suffering in most car accident claims will range from $15,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of your injury and the long-term/chronic effects on your life.
How is a car accident settlement paid out?
If you agree to a settlement following a car accident rather than pursue damages via a personal injury lawsuit, you may have the option to receive compensation in a single lump sum or a structured settlement where payments are dispersed gradually.
Which settlement structure is best for you depends on your individual circumstances. Consult with your attorney to determine whether a lump sum payment or structured settlement is right for you based on your situation.
Just keep in mind that once you agree to how the settlement will be paid, that’s that. The terms cannot be changed later on.
How much do lawyers take from a car accident settlement?
While the precise cost of hiring a lawyer in your case will depend on the firm you choose and whether or not your case goes to trial, most personal injury lawyers take up to one-third of the final settlement or damage award. So if you were awarded $100,000 in damages from the at-fault driver or their insurance company, you might take home $70,000 and your attorney might take $30,000.
Since car accidents are so prevalent, drivers should know what to do before they are involved in one, so they are able to protect their best interests. In addition to contacting an experienced car accident attorney right away, you should follow these steps for what to do after a crash…
Is it better to settle out of court or go to trial?
It depends. There are pros and cons to either path.
The advantages of out-of-court settlements are that you can typically receive compensation sooner, they are less costly (less legal fees) and are considered less risky than litigation. The disadvantage is that you may not get as much compensation since you’ll often have to meet the other party in the middle during settlement negotiations.
The main advantage of going to trial is that you can secure a higher damages award for your pain and suffering and possibly punitive damages in certain circumstances. The downside of going to trial is that it can be risky since a judge or jury may rule against you in court. Litigation can also be costly and take a longer time to resolve.
A vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court. Only a fraction go to trial. That said, it can be helpful to have a skilled trial lawyer representing you regardless because they can help negotiate a better settlement for you and be fully prepared in the off chance your case goes to trial.
What is a fair settlement offer?
A majority of car accident cases settle out of court before going to trial. Understanding if the settlement offer you’ve been given is fair or not will help you avoid settling your case for far less than it’s actually worth.
From the start, you should know not to accept the first settlement offer until you’ve had a chance to speak with a personal injury attorney. This is because insurance companies typically lowball claimants in their initial offer, hoping that they will settle before they understand the full cost of their injuries.
Keep in mind that you may ultimately end up settling your case for less than you ask for at first. In the process of negotiation, it might benefit you to meet the defendant somewhere in the middle so that you can get compensated sooner and avoid the hassle (and cost) of drawn-out litigation.
There’s a saying that a good compromise is one where both parties are equally dissatisfied. While we don’t believe this is necessarily true for car accident settlements and you may still be able to walk away happy, you should be prepared to accept less than you initially asked for—though you should never accept less than your case is worth.
In cases involving serious injuries and death, you should always consult with an experienced car accident lawyer before accepting any settlement in order to determine if the offer is fair.
Contact a Macon, Georgia car accident attorney
The attorneys at Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson are prepared to fight for the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. We will evaluate your case to determine whether or not it’s wise to settle with the insurance company or go to court.
Our compassionate attorneys will work with you to ensure you receive all the medical evaluations you need to allow us to thoroughly document your injuries and bring in the right professionals to offer their expert opinions. We will do all the legal legwork so that you can focus your energy and attention where it’s needed most: the healing process.