- Negotiation of a fair injury settlement typically takes place after you have completed your medical treatment and all records and reports have been received from your doctors. At that point, your injury attorney will evaluate your case and demand payment based on the amount of your medical bills and the severity of your injury.
- It is usually best to wait to settle your claim until the total cost of the medical treatment and the full extent of your recovery is known. This allows you to recoup all past and future medical expenses, with an understanding about fully you will recover.
- Medical bills, lost wages, and disability or limitations caused by your injuries are all considered when determining a fair settlement amount. If the insurance company does not offer a reasonable settlement, a lawsuit may become necessary.
- Experienced personal injury lawyers conduct settlement and verdict research to determine the amount or range that best represents full and fair compensation in a car accident case.
- How soon after an accident can the settlement process begin?
- What injuries and damages should factor into a settlement?
- Should a victim wait until fully healed before settling a case?
- 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 renders a decision in the case. Although settlement talks can begin at any time–even before a lawsuit has been filed or on the eve of trial–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 begin the settlement process, which usually is initiated by one party offering the other terms and conditions that both would find agreeable in exchange 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 precise terms and conditions, with the injured party seeking to obtain as much as possible in compensation and the at-fault party generally wanting to resolve the case for as little money as possible and without a formal finding of fault.
Assuming that the two parties can reach terms that are mutually acceptable, the settlement agreement is put into writing and, if necessary, presented to the court for approval.
The settlement agreement will usually indicate the amount of compensation the injured party will receive and may include additional terms such as how the settlement amount will be paid (e.g., in a lump sum or periodic payments). The settlement agreement may also indicate what would happen if the at-fault party does not pay the agreed-upon amount according to the terms of the agreement.
What is the time frame for receiving a car accident settlement?
The settlement negotiation process typically takes place after you have completed your medical treatment and all of the records and reports have been received from your doctors. 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. But this may be a tactic used to tempt an injury victim to settle before the full extent of injuries and future medical needs are known. The insurance company knows that once you settle, it is difficult to impossible to re-open the case and require the at-fault driver or their insurance company to pay more at a future time. This is true even if the full extent of injury or expense is known at the time of settlement.
For these reasons, most personal injury lawyers will advise that you do not discuss settlement or attempt to settle until your medical care is complete, or you have reached your maximum expected recovery. There are some exceptions to this rule-of-thumb, such as when there is a large injury and limited insurance available, but in such cases you should consult with an attorney to be sure that no potential sources of additional insurance such as excess or umbrella coverage are overlooked.
Do I have to wait until I’m fully recovered to settle?
It is usually best to wait to settle your claim until the total cost of the medical treatment and the full extent of your recovery is known. This allows you to obtain a fair injury settlement that includes all past and future medical expenses – after it is known how fully you will recover.
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.
Though it may be difficult to wait, not capturing all the costs or not including all the medical care necessary can be risky, because once you settle, there is little or no chance of going back to get additional compensation.
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 instance, the value of a lost leg is much greater and may require a much higher settlement than a broken ankle from which there is a full recovery.
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 that must be done as a result of your injuries or to help you regain your physical abilities.
- Lost Wages: Past and future earnings from work, as well as any times you cannot work because you have to attend treatment programs and appointments with specialists.
- Actual inability or limitations: Accounts for any activity you can no longer do as a result of the accident. This also accounts for the physical pain you’ve endured since the accident and what you will likely suffer in the future.
Some of these factors are easier to calculate than others.
While you can add up the medical bills (past and estimated future costs), lost earnings, and the costs to repair or replace your vehicle, the normal activities and enjoyments you can no longer do are more difficult to place value on.
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:
- 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.
You can often expect a much larger settlement if you suffered a permanent injury than you would for a sprained your neck or ankle with a full recovery.
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
- Modifying your living quarters to allow for wheelchair accessibility
- Loss of future enjoyment of life
- Lost or diminished capacity to work
If your injuries are likely to cause you pain and suffering for years rather than months, your lawyer will adjust the demand for payment to compensate you fairly.
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 the kind of injury you have, the quality and ability of your personal injury attorney, and the amount of insurance available.
In Georgia, an injury victim is entitled to compensation for the harms and losses suffered. This usually means your past and future medical expenses, your lost pay as a result of your injuries, and your pain and suffering–including any future limitations caused by your injury.
“Fair” may also depend on your expectations and the conduct of the at-fault driver.
Georgia personal injury lawyers use settlement and verdict reporters, this process is known as settlement or jury verdict research, as a guide to set a settlement range for injury cases. Insurance companies use the same, or a similar, process. Claims professionals will review what similar cases settled for in the past and how much jury’s tend to award in cases with facts and injuries that closely match your case. This provides guidance concerning what amount may be considered fair in the eyes of the local community where the case may be brought.
A careful attorney will discuss with you what other victims have received for similar injuries and under similar circumstances. If the insurance company makes an offer below that range, your options may include making a counter-offer and continuing to negotiate or filing a lawsuit. Insurance adjusters often make better and larger settlement offers to attorneys and law firms that have a reputation for filing suit against low-ball offers.
An attorney’s understanding of convincing arguments, such as how the accident has affected your enjoyment of life and how much it could cost you in the future, comes from years of practice and a wealth of experience. 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. And, with YouTube videos and online guides on everything from converting your car to run on vegetable oil to how to make your own furniture, it is not surprising that the do-it-yourself trend has extended to the legal sphere, 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 the victim’s ability to take the at-fault driver or company to Court and win damages in a Jury trial. Unless you have the credible threat of taking the negligent party to Court and winning, the adjuster is unlikely to make an offer that truly and fairly reflects the value of your claim. If you are representing yourself, the adjuster is likely to make a very low settlement offer because he or she knows that you are not likely to beat their defense team in court.
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. Your meeting should involve sitting down with a lawyer or legal team to discuss what happened in the accident and how it is affecting 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. An experienced lawyer can begin gathering that information and evidence for you and begin the settlement process on your behalf once you agree to work together.
Do I have to pay legal fees if I do not win my case?
The Millar Law Firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not collect legal fees unless we secure compensation for you. 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’s no obligation to hire our firm, and you will leave the meeting with a better idea of how you should proceed.
Obtaining a fair injury settlement and compensation for injuries and damages caused by a traffic accident is a complicated process. Because each accident is unique, that process can be difficult in ways beyond the challenges of healing and recovering from monetary loss. Generally speaking, the more catastrophic the accident and the resulting injuries, the higher the settlement will be. This may, however, also be limited by the amount of insurance coverage available or whether the at-fault person or company has assets that can be recovered.
Many factors determine the size and length of time between the accident and the settlement. But one thing is common to all accidents: Detailed documentation and immediate medical treatment make the entire process faster and more equitable. A thorough accounting of all costs, including medical treatment, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering, must be included in any settlement 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. Getting help from lawyers who know their way around personal injury law can be a “game-changer.” Call The Millar Law Firm for a free case evaluation today.