Each car accident case is different. 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.
Some 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.
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 Related to the Car Accident.
While the amount of medical expenses 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 – 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.
If you would like to learn more about the settlement value of your case, contact The Millar Law Firm today. Our attorneys will evaluate your case for free and at no obligation.