As we discussed last month, as an experienced Georgia injury lawyer, I have represented many clients who have suffered serious injuries in car accidents. While every case is different and no two clients are alike, I am writing a series of blog posts to address frequently asked questions. Knowing the answers to these common automobile accident questions will allow those injured in Georgia car accidents to be better informed about the litigation process.
How much is my Georgia car accident case worth?
Many auto accidents in Georgia result in serious injuries such as a broken arm or leg, lost teeth, loss of limbs, severe burns and scarring, herniation of disc in your neck and back and cognitive problems such as loss of memory caused by brain injuries. Unfortunately, we cannot give you back your health, but what the law seeks to do, in simple legal terms, is to “make you whole.” Since we can’t give you back the health you lost, your case is valued by money, i.e,. what amount of money should a jury give you to put you in the same position you were in before the wreck.
While insurance companies (and many new lawyers) value cases based on a multiplier of the injured plaintiff’s medical bills (that is to say, they value your case based on the amount of your medical bills times a multiplier, usually 2 to 3 times the total of the bills. For instance, if you have $50,000 in medical bills, they value your case at $100,000 to $150,000). This is a crude method which, at times, is woefully inadequate to fully compensate someone who is seriously injured in a car wreck.
Under Georgia law, you are entitled to (1) special damages, (2) general damages and (3) in rare cases punitive damages. Special damages are those damages that an injured plaintiff suffers which are capable being proven to an exact amount. Common examples of special damages that are recoverable in Georgia include but are not limited to: medical bills, prescription costs, and lost wages. In other words, these are damages that you don’t need a jury to place a value on. They are what they are, and the bills and receipts prove them.
General damages comprise the largest amount of damages in most cases. General damages compensate the injured plaintiff for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent physical injury or impairment. Think about the following scenario and ask yourself what the special damages are worth: A 20 year-old star college baseball player for Georgia Tech is rear-ended while he is stopped in traffic at the Georgia 400 tollbooth. In the wreck, he smashes his head against the steering wheel. Due to the wreck and the resulting blow to his head, he loses an eye at the scene. Since there was so little the doctors could do, his medical bills are only $15,000. His major league baseball career is over before it starts. What is the proper amount of special damages in this case?
The final element of damages allowable in Georgia are punitive damages. Punitive damages are rarely awarded because the legal standard is harder to satisfy in order for them to be warranted. In an auto wreck case, one can recover punitive damages if it can be shown that the defendant driver committed more than negligence and acted with malice or a conscious indifference to the welfare of others.
All of these damages should be considered when valuing a case.
As experienced injury lawyers, we at Robert J. Fleming has had great successes helping seriously injured clients value their automobile accident cases. If you or a family member has been seriously injured and would like help in valuing your case, please contact us for a confidential and thorough case evaluation.