- The most important factor in how much a Georgia car accident case is worth is the severity of your injury.
- The amount of your compensation may also be affected by the amount of insurance available and the amount of your medical bills.
- Insurance Companies may inappropriately try to assign a settlement formula to your case, but your case may be worth more.
You have recently been hurt in a car accident in Georgia. Maybe you were injured in or near Atlanta, or your crash was somewhere in North or South Georgia. One of the first questions that people want answered after a serious car or truck wreck is how much a car accident claim settlement is worth, and how is the value determined.
Georgia Car Accident Claim Settlements Are Not A Simple “Cash Grab”
Although slick lawyer television commercials or your Uncle Vinny’s Thanksgiving story about how he received a giant settlement might make it look like a car accident is a golden ticket, there is more to the settlement value of a Georgia personal injury case than meets the eye.
Most cases are settled after a demand letter is sent to the insurance company, usually at the end of your medical care and all of your bills, lost pay and past and future medical costs are known or can be estimated. There is no magic formula to the value of a Georgia injury case, however, and any lawyer or relative who tells you they “know” how much your case is worth without knowing all the facts is likely to be very wrong.
We find that many people have an opinion on case value based on what they have seen on television or heard from a friend. Unfortunately, those estimates can be wildly different from reality, and can lead to distrust of the insurance company or the injury lawyer you have hired to help with your case.
What Factors Go Into Setting The Value of A Georgia Car Accident Case?
In reality, each car accident case is different and this means that the settlement value is different from case to case. In most Georgia injury cases there are several things to consider that can change the value of a car accident settlement up or down. Lawyers and insurance companies look at several factors when evaluating a case and rely on prior similar case results as well as how the case has affected you and whether your injury may cause a permanent problem in the long run.
When it comes to putting a settlement value on a Georgia car accident injury claim some of the most important factors include: (1) the amount of insurance available to recover from; (2) the severity of the accident; (3) how soon after the accident you first received medical treatment; (4) the severity and permanency of the injuries you sustained in the car accident; (5) the type of treatment you receive for your injuries; (6) how long you treated for your injuries; and (7) the amount of your medical expenses related to the car accident.
(1) The Amount of Insurance Available.
Often, one of the main determinations of the value of a car accident settlement is how much insurance is available to recover from. This often depends on the state in which the at-fault driver’s vehicle is registered, as each state has individual regulations and requirements for the type of insurance and the amount of minimum insurance required. A driver whose vehicle is registered in the state of Georgia is required to maintain a liability insurance policy of at least $25,000.00. This is the minimum amount of liability insurance that each driver must have. However, some drivers pay for coverage greater than the state minimum. Commercial vehicles usually carry larger insurance policies, often a minimum of $500,000 up to several million dollars.
If you have a very serious injury, the driver that caused the accident that you were injured in has only the minimum of liability insurance, the value of your car accident settlement is likely limited to the $25,000.00 liability policy limit. On the other hand, if your injury is relatively minor, $25,000.00 in coverage may be enough to settle the case within the policy limit.
If there is not enough insurance from the at-fault driver to fully cover your injury, you may be entitled to also make a recovery, penalty-free, under your own under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage policy.
(2) The Severity of The Accident.
The severity of an accident can often times speak for itself. As you can imagine, when a car is heavily damaged its easy to see how you or another person can be severely injured. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to argue that if the vehicle involved had only light or moderate damage, you were not badly hurt, which may often result in a smaller offer.
Because visible property damage does not always accurately reflect the severity of the accident and the force of the impact it may be necessary to obtain expert testimony or to file a lawsuit. Also, keep in mind that in some cases, severe injury can, and does, happen even when there is not a lot of visible damage to the cars or trucks involved. Just don’t expect the insurance company to agree with you. Having a fierce advocate on your side may be the only way to get full value in your case.
(3) How Soon After the Accident You Sought Treatment for your Injuries.
As a general rule, it is always best to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you immediately experience significant pain; visible injuries; feel light headed or have trouble breathing, you should seek immediate emergency care.
Keep in mind that the longer you delay in receiving medical care, the more likely it is that an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer for the at-fault driver will argue that you were “not really hurt” in the accident. And while it is true that some people do not seek medical care because they are hoping to feel better in a day or two, and that others may not begin to feel their injuries until the following day or even a few days thereafter, it can be hard to overcome these defense arguments and receive a fair settlement offer.For these reasons, it is important that you seek treatment for your injuries as soon as possible as within a reasonable time (i.e., the same day or no more than a few days after the accident) both to rule out any hidden severe injury and to prevent the at-fault party’s insurance company from arguing a gap in initial medical care and treatment against you.
(4) The Severity and Permanency of Your Injuries.
One of the largest factors in determining settlement value of a personal injury claim in Georgia is the severity of injury and whether it is permanent. “Smaller” injuries — as painful as they may be – such as whiplash or bumps and bruises (referred to as soft-tissue injuries) will settle for less money than catastrophic or permanent injuries. It is not uncommon for cases with small medical bills to settle for high-six or even seven-figure amounts, if the injury results in the loss or severe impairment of a limb or vision.
Soft tissue injuries with a full recovery and no permanent impairment will often settle for a small multiple of the medical bills plus lost income. Major or catastrophic injuries will usually settle for large amounts of money only after medical experts provide reports or testimony explaining the nature of the injury, why the injury is permanent, and how the injury will affect a person’s future quality of life and earnings.
(5) The Type of Treatment you Receive for your Injuries.
The nature of your injuries will determine the type of treatment. Soft tissue injuries treated only by chiropractic care or physical therapy tend to result in smaller settlements. Larger injuries resulting in hospitalization, injections or surgery have more value, and tend to settle for more money accordingly.
If you have an injury from which you are not quickly recovering, it is important that you continue to seek medical care and follow the recommendations of your treating medical doctors. It can be very difficult for you to obtain a fair settlement offer from an insurance if you do not have medical care, even if you remain in pain. If you are in pain but are not treating with a doctor or if you have not received a report from a doctor that explains why your injuries will continue to cause pain, with or without ongoing medical care, it is likely that the insurance company will refuse to make an offer that you will find to be fair and reasonable.
(6) How Long You Treat for your Injuries.
The length of time that you have or will treat for your injuries is another consideration in settlement value. First and foremost, you should always act according to the recommendation of your medical provider. Continuing to treat beyond the time that you have recovered or for the purpose of running up medical bills is not recommended, and may be irresponsible or unethical.
On the other hand, if your condition requires ongoing medical care for an extended period of time, this is part of the settlement value of your case. Under Georgia law you are entitled to be compensated for the total amount of your past, present and future pain and suffering. If you stop medical care before you are recovered or against your doctor’s recommendations, this can hurt your case or may result in the insurance adjuster making a smaller offer.
(7) The Amount of Medical Expenses and Lost Wages Related to the Car Accident.
While the amount of medical expenses and lost wages is not always directly related to the settlement value of your case, it is one of many things that factors in. In many cases, the larger your medical expenses – or estimated future medical expenses and lost earnings – the greater the value of your case. Note that this is not true in every case.
For example, our office has experienced cases where the emergency services bills were over $50,000 because of an air-ambulance ride or many diagnostic tests were performed, but the injuries were (fortunately) relatively minor. Compare this to cases where the emergency room bill was very small, but the injury later made a $50,000 surgery necessary. The case with the large emergency billing but a minor injury is still quite possibly worth in excess of the billing, a case where surgery was necessary may have a higher value because of the amount of pain and suffering and the need for future medical care.
(8) Whether you have had prior claims or similar injuries in the past
If you have had a similar injury in the past, whether caused by a car accident, by some other injury, or even if your condition is degenerative, this can have a big effect on the settlement value of your claim. For example, if you had a neck surgery a few months before you were rear-ended, this may have a large effect in either increasing or decreasing the value of your case. If you did not suffer a new injury in the rear-end crash but your neck now hurts “more,” your case has one settlement value or range. On the other hand, if being hit by a car caused the hardware in your neck to break, your case may have a much, much greater value.
Likewise, if you had suffered from degenerative disk disease that was making you treat with a doctor before your car accident, it may be much harder to argue for a large settlement if your car accident was fairly minor and did not involve immediate hospitalization.
(9) Credibility and Proof of Your Injuries
Many injuries are difficult to “see” and do not show up well on x-rays, CT Scans or MRI’s. A case where a broken bone or herniated disk is easily visible on a study is often much easier to prove than a case of whiplash, and is likely to have a higher settlement value. Likewise, in a case where the visible damage to the cars involved is large and easily seen it may be easier to prove an injury than in a case where you have to squint to see the damage. It can be dangerous and damaging to your credibility to claim an injury that is not supported by the amount of damage caused to the vehicles in the collision. That said, not all injuries require vehicles to be extensively damaged. A careful and experienced lawyer will speak with your doctors and seek a professional opinion about whether the injury was caused by the collision.
Typical or Average Settlement Values of Certain Georgia Injury Cases
You may have seen people on TV or in a courtroom who are asking for money and claiming to be hurt. But what are certain car accident injury cases actually worth in Georgia? A settlement formula is often used by insurance companies when it comes to placing a value on an injury case.
Whiplash Cases: Neck injuries involving sprains and strains when there is a full medical recovery are often given a settlement value of 1.5 to 3 times the amount of the medical bills. This can change depending on many of the factors discussed above. But for example, if the medical bills for treatment of whiplash are $3,000, your case may have a settlement value in the Atlanta area in the range of $5,000 to $7,000.
Back or Neck Surgery cases: In a more severe case where a back or neck surgery has been necessary, is difficult – if not impossible – to apply a specific formula. The reason is that the value of the case is largely dependent on how well you recover after surgery. Many people never fully recover. If, for example, your medical bills after initial treatment, followed by surgery and therapy, are $100,000 or more, your case may have a settlement value of several hundred thousand dollars, or more.
Knee or Shoulder Injury claims: Insurance settlements in cases involving injuries to large joints like the knees and shoulders depend largely on the nature and extent of the treatment, and whether the injury is permanent. If you undergo injections and have a full recovery, the case has less value than a permanent injury. So, a shoulder injury to a young person who has injections and therapy but fully recovers and has $15,000 in medical bills is typically worth $30,000 to $60,000, while a permanent injury to the same person may be valued in excess of $100,000, or more.
Some insurance industry data suggests that the average car accident case settlement for all types of claims combined between 2009 and 2018 was approximately $14,000 to $16,000 per injury case.