- Negotiation of a fair injury settlement typically takes place after completion of your medical treatment. At that time, all records and reports will be gathered from your doctors. Your injury attorney will then evaluate your case and make a settlement demand.
- Don’t settle your claim too soon. It may be best to wait until the full amount of your medical treatment and your recovery are known.
- Medical bills, lost wages and disability caused by your injuries are part of determining a fair settlement amount.
- Personal injury lawyers use settlement and verdict research to help determine the value of car accident cases.
- What is the time frame for receiving a car accident settlement?
- What injuries and damages should factor into a settlement?
- Do I have to wait until I’m fully recovered to settle?
- Are more catastrophic injuries worth more in a settlement?
- If the at-fault driver was drunk, is it easier to get a larger settlement?
You’ve been in an accident. People are hurt, cars are wrecked. What do you do now? Should you call an attorney right away, or should you wait to see what happens?
The moments following an automobile accident can be chaotic and confusing. Your first instinct, of course, is to help the injured and notifying law enforcement authorities. Knowing what to do after that can be bewildering.
Important information about Georgia car accident claims and settlements
How do I obtain a fair injury settlement in Atlanta?
The law allows parties to settle their dispute at any time before a judge or jury decides the case. Settlement talks can happen at any time — even before a lawsuit has been filed or just before trial. However, settlement discussions usually start early in the life of the claim or lawsuit. In fact, it is not necessary to file a lawsuit to begin negotiating with an insurance company or adjuster.
Either party can start settlement negotiations by offering its terms and conditions for settling the dispute. It is common for this “first offer” to be rejected and countered by the other party.
The two parties continue to negotiate over the terms and conditions. The injured party will push negotiations to obtain as much in monetary compensation as possible. The at-fault party wants to resolve a case for as little money as it can. Sometimes, the at-fault wants to settle without a formal finding of fault.
Once the parties have reached mutually-acceptable terms, the settlement is put into writing and, if necessary, presented for court approval.
The settlement agreement will indicate the amount of compensation the injured party will receive, whether in a lump amount or periodic payments. The agreement may also have language about what happens if the at-fault party does not pay according to the terms in the agreement.
What is the time frame for receiving a car accident settlement?
Settlement negotiations typically take place after you have completed all necessary medical care. Your medical records are then collected by your lawyer. At that point, your injury attorney will evaluate your case and make a demand for payment to the insurance company.
Usually, how much is demanded depends on the amount of your medical bills or the severity of your injury.
Occasionally, an insurance company may make a settlement offer shortly after an accident. This can occur if an insurance adjuster or company wants to settle while you are still receiving medical care. Most injury lawyers view this as a tactic to tempt the injured victim to settle before the full expense of medical care is known. The insurance company knows it is nearly impossible to re-open a case once payment has been made. This is true even if the full extent of injury or expense is unknown at the time of settlement.
Most personal injury lawyers will advise you to not discuss settlement until your medical care is complete and your expenses are known. Sometimes, it may appear that the insurance coverage is not sufficient to cover your medical expenses. Consulting with an attorney should help you determine if other sources of insurance, such as excess or umbrella policies, exist.
Do I have to wait until I’m fully recovered to settle?
It is only after completing medical care that one can truly assess the costs of your injury and recovery. Part of a settlement may be required to cover your future medical expenses.
Even when all the necessary testing and surgical procedures have been completed, there will be recovery time. The time it takes to regain abilities is different from person to person and injury to injury.
Being patient with this process of collecting costs for medical treatment and settlement negotiation tactics will allow you to be more fully compensated.
Do more severe injuries mean a higher settlement amount?
Generally speaking, in Atlanta, South Atlanta, or anywhere else in Georgia, the more severe an injury is, and the more permanent the loss, the higher the value for pain and suffering tends to be. For example, a traumatic amputation is of greater value or worth a higher settlement than a broken limb.
An accident case is made up of several components, all of which ensure the settlement is full and just. Items that must be included in the calculation are:
- Medical bills: This includes tests, surgeries, and treatments related to your injuries that are required to help regain your physical abilities.
- Lost wages: Past and future earnings from work, including last wages due to attending doctor appointments.
- Actual inabilities or limitations: Accounts for any activity you can no longer do as a result of the accident. Additionally, this would include physical pain endured since the accident and what you may suffer in the future.
Some of these factors are more simple to calculate than others.
Adding up costs, such as medical bills, is easier than calculating a value on the loss of doing normal activities and hobbies.
What are the factors that can result in a larger settlement?
Not all accidents or injuries are equal. Factors that can result in a larger settlement include:
- Severe or catastrophic personal injury
- Wrongful death
- The involvement of multiple defendants, including commercial or business interests
- Extraordinary negligence or willful recklessness by the at-fault driver
- Punitive behavior, such as drunk driving or a business with a history of accidents
Placing a settlement value on severe or catastrophic injuries
The amount of time your injuries will cause suffering is one key factor in the ultimate size of your settlement.
A settlement would be larger if the injury is permanent (“catastrophic”) rather than temporary, such as a sprain.
Compensation for catastrophic injuries might include:
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- The cost for prosthetics
- The cost for replacement wheelchairs
- Expenses related to modifying your vehicle — now and for the rest of your life
- Adjustments to your living quarters to allow for wheelchair accessibility
- Loss of future enjoyment of life
- Lost or diminished capacity to work
Your demand for compensation will be adjusted for pain and suffering that lasts months or years.
What is a fair injury settlement with an insurance company?
The answer to this question depends on several factors. Usually, a “fair” settlement is determined based on your injury and the amount of insurance available.
In Georgia, an injured victim is entitled to compensation for the harms and losses suffered. This usually means how your injuries affect past and future medical expenses, any lost income, pain and suffering, and any physical limitations.
Fair may also depend on your expectations and the conduct of the at-fault driver.
Georgia personal injury lawyers perform jury verdict research and settlement reports to set a settlement range for injury cases. Insurance companies use the same, or a similar, process. Claims professionals will review cases with similar facts as your case to gauge potential settlement or jury verdicts. This process provides an amount that may be considered fair by the local community where the case will be filed.
A careful attorney will discuss with you what other victims have received for similar injuries and circumstances. If the insurance adjuster makes an offer below the range determined by your attorney, a counter offer may continue negotiations. Or, you and your lawyer may decide to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies often make better offers when the lawyer has a reputation for filing lawsuits against low-ball offers.
An experienced attorney will craft an argument for the top of the range by conveying how the accident has affected your quality of life. For this reason, it is usually in your best interest to choose a lawyer who has a long and successful history of winning personal injury cases.
What happens if there’s no settlement?
If the insurance company does not offer a fair settlement, a lawsuit may be recommended or necessary. Lawsuits are often filed in the county in Georgia where the at-fault driver lives, but there may be other options. See the Georgia Constitution, Article Six, Section Two, Paragraph Seven for more details.
Should you represent yourself in a car accident case?
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is certainly not a legal requirement. Admittedly, YouTube videos seem to help people with a lot of normal activities, and that trend is seen in the legal world, too.
Although self-representation in legal matters may be gaining in popularity, you must proceed with extreme caution. Chances are you are dealing with an insurance company on the other side of your claim. The insurance adjuster knows that the real threat in any injury claim is taking the case to a judge and jury. They know that the average person can’t beat a professional team of lawyers in a courtroom. Therefore, the average citizen probably can’t push an adjuster to make a fair offer without the threat of a trial.
Other common mistakes made during the claims process could significantly affect your leverage during settlement:
- Giving a recorded statement that can later be used against you
- Failing to understand the value of your claim, and therefore asking for too little (or too much)
- Taking a settlement offer before all of your harms, losses, and damages are known
- Failing to file a claim in time
- Assuming that it will all “work out” because the insurance adjuster is nice and friendly
Can I receive a free consultation for my car accident case?
An initial consultation should be free of charge as part of an attorney’s services. In this initial meeting, you should discuss how the accident happened and its effect on your life.
Will I need the police accident report before meeting with a lawyer?
You do not need to have the accident report or your medical records during an initial consultation. Once you have agreed to work together, an experienced lawyer knows how to gather that evidence and more for your successful case.
Do I have to pay legal fees if I do not win my case?
The Millar Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis. We do not charge legal fees unless we are successful in our settlement negotiations or in court. Our payment then comes as a percentage of your compensation when your case is finished.
Contact The Millar Law Firm for a free consultation
If you have suffered injuries or are coping with other damages after a car accident, you can schedule a free case consultation with an experienced attorney at The Millar Law Firm.
There is no obligation to hire our firm after the meeting. However, we believe our consultations can provide you with a better idea of your case. We can also review the legal process and assure you that we are the firm to handle your injury case.
Obtaining a fair injury settlement and compensation for injuries and damages caused by a traffic accident is a complicated process. Generally speaking, the more catastrophic the accident and the resulting injuries, the higher the settlement will be. The amount of insurance coverage the at-fault driver had may not provide enough funds to cover expenses in a catastrophic injury case.
Many factors determine the size and length of time between the accident and the settlement. Detailed documentation of treatment and the costs incurred make the entire settlement process faster and more equitable. A thorough accounting of expenses, treatments, lost wages, and pain and suffering must be included in negotiations.
Having a personal injury lawyer in your corner can help ensure all damages have been properly accounted for. This is especially true of major accidents or those that include commercial activities. Accidents involving wrongful death or professional drivers can be especially complex. Hiring the right personal injury lawyer can be a “game-changer.” Call The Millar Law Firm for your free case consultation today!