All the “noise” in television advertisements sometimes leads accident victims to believe that an accident injury is the automatic gateway to riches. Some cases do end up in large settlements, and other’s not-so-much. So you’ll know, both the legendary city of El Dorado where the streets are paved with gold, and “Slam Dunk” accident cases are both mythical. Nobody has found either one yet, but if you would like some more information about why some cases are large and (many) others much smaller, read on.
That “large cash award” you hear about on television actually does exist, but it’s not something you’ll find lying alongside the road after your accident just waiting to be picked up and cashed in for untold riches. In order to be highly compensated after an accident, there is often a high price to pay.
The law in Georgia aims to make sure you get compensated for everything you lost. Our laws want you to be ‘made whole’ again. In order to ensure that fair and full compensation, though, not all accidents are equal. There are elements of an accident that can add up to a larger award if they are handled correctly, though. Here are just a few of those factors.
- Severe or catastrophic personal injury, or wrongful death claims
- The involvement of multiple defendants including commercial or business interests
- Extraordinary negligence or willful recklessness by the at-fault driver
- Punitive Damages
- Permanent injuries
- Wrongful Death
Each of these circumstances will lead to a larger settlement, but we’re sure you’ll agree that permanent injuries and wrongful death don’t make for an equitable settlement no matter how large that settlement is. With all of that being said, let us discuss the elements that are common in a “large cash award.”
Multiple defendants including commercial or business interests
The law expects people who earn a living by transporting goods or services to exercise a high level of caution. The truck driver, the furniture delivery driver, and the florist’s van driver all must obtain a CDL, a commercial driver’s license, to ensure that they have superior driving skills. When somebody with a CDL is involved in your accident, it may mean that they did not take their role as a professional driver seriously enough.
In addition to the driver who failed to exercise the appropriate level of caution, it’s also possible that that driver’s employer failed to train the driver properly to ensure his duty to the safety of other drivers. If lack of training or enforcement of the rules points to negligence on the part of the employer can be proven, it can mean a settlement from the employer as well as one from the driver.
An accident where multiple defendants are found negligent can have many layers, like an onion. If, for example, a truck driver leased his truck to a company that provides services to a still larger company there are three layers of liability to be explored. Victims of such an accident may, after careful investigation, have claims against each of the defendants for damages leading to multiple settlement options. A situation such as this can lead to a larger settlement in the end.
Extraordinary negligence or willful recklessness by the at-fault driver
The law in Georgia expects us all to follow the rules. It demands that we all be careful to behave in ways that do not threaten the safety of others. When somebody fails to do this, the law punishes them accordingly. The more egregious or outrageous the behavior of the driver that caused your wreck, the better your chances of winning a larger settlement will be.
If the at-fault driver is drunk or under the influence of drugs and you can prove that, your chances of winning the case are better. The law frowns on people recklessly endangering other drivers but it is especially hard on those drivers who knowingly engage in this kind of negligence.
Proof of the negligent behavior can often be found in the police report. Blood alcohol and toxicology reports are among the best ways to demonstrate that the individual was carelessly endangering others.
If the other driver was knowingly driving a vehicle that was unsafe for the road is another. If the other driver’s car was not fit to be on the highway – his headlights were not working, for example. If the at-fault driver was speeding, that fact should also be noted in the police report and could make a significant difference in the size of the settlement.
If eye witnesses to this behavior are willing to make a statement, this can be a very good way to prove that the at-fault driver was reckless. Witnesses such as the bartender who served the driver or the convenience store clerk who refused to sell him beer because he was visibly under the influence can be keys to a personal injury claim. Sometimes these witnesses can be difficult to find or unwilling to testify, but their testimony is often critical.
Not every case can or should include punitive damages. These are special damages meant to punish the defendant and to discourage repeat behavior. Punitive damages may be paid when the at-fault individual is proven to have engaged in especially reckless, wonton, and willful behavior. (These damages are often added when there is intoxication by drugs or alcohol involved.)
Punitive damages are strictly limited by Georgia law. The jury is authorized to impose such damages, for example, only when there is a specific plea for them in the original complaint.
Permanent or catastrophic injuries
The length of time your injuries will continue to make you suffer is a key factor in the ultimate size of your settlement. Put simply, you can expect a larger settlement if you’ve suffered a permanent ability to lift heavy objects, perform your job, or due to lost a limb, than you would if you only sprained your neck or ankle and completely recovered.
There are many factors that come into play when your life has been forever changed because of injuries suffered in an accident. If you’ve lost the use of your legs, your life will change in big ways.
Compensation for catastrophic changes might include, but certainly not be limited to:
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- The cost for prosthetics
- The cost for replacement wheelchairs
- Expenses related to modifying your vehicle – not just for now, but for the rest of your life.
- Modifying your living quarters to allow for wheelchair accessibility
- Loss of future enjoyment of life
- Lost or diminished capacity to work
If you happen to be a high school football coach, and your ability to earn a living depends upon the use of your legs, this would also be reflected in your demand for compensation.
If your injuries are likely to cause you pain and suffering for years rather than mere months, your lawyer will adjust the demand for payment to compensate you fairly. In the end, your compensation should reflect all of what you’ve lost so that you can be ‘made whole’ again.
Georgia law allows wrongful death claims to be brought when there is a death as the result of an accident where negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal acts are found to have played a significant part.
In a wrongful death claim, which is filed in addition to any personal injury claim, many of the same items are compensable as in a personal injury claim. Expenses and costs including medical and funeral expenses would be included along with other factors that attempt to compensate the plaintiffs for all they’ve lost. (Look here for a more in-depth discussion on wrongful death claims.) Additional damages for wrongful death in Georgia include loss of the full value, or future value including both economic losses and enjoyment and the expected experiences of life.
Ultimately, the size of your accident injury settlement is directly related to what you’ve lost as a result of the accident. The more your life is forever changed, the larger your settlement is likely to be. The key is to capture all of your losses and to account for them meticulously.
The tipping point is how well your situation is presented and negotiated. If you are represented by a well-seasoned personal injury law firm, your chances of being compensated for everything you’ve lost are simply better than if you try to handle it on your own. In the end, having a wealth of experience on your side is the only sure-fire way to increase the size of your settlement.
If you hope to find justice in Georgia, begin by consulting with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury cases. The more experience you can bring to bear on your claim, the better your chances of a full and fair settlement becomes. At the Millar Law Firm, we have over 65-years of hands-on experience settling claims for our clients. Let us advocate for you. Call 770-400-0000 (770 – 4 – Million) today.