No two car accident cases are ever the same, says The Pendergrass Law Firm. Although cases can have similarities, there is no way to know for sure how much you will receive in a settlement. However, suppose you know how settlements are calculated and speak to an experienced personal injury attorney about your case. In that case, you are more likely to receive the best settlement offer possible.
Types of Damages
There are two different types of damages that an injured person can receive in a personal injury settlement: compensatory damages and punitive damages. There are two types of compensatory damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. In order to understand the settlement amount that the insurance company offers you, you must first understand the different components of your settlement.
Economic damages are meant to make you financially whole again after your accident and to compensate you for all related financial losses. The bulk of economic damages is typically medical bills and lost wages. All of your medical expenses, from your ambulance ride to your medications and follow-up care, can be compensated by the liable party. Lost wages are calculated by using your pay stubs or tax documents and determining how much money you would have made had you been able to go to work and how much money you are losing by being unable to return.
Also included in economic damages are any out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury. For example, if you suffered a back injury, then caring for little kids would be very difficult if you are a parent. Most parents in that situation would need to hire help. A parent would not be in that situation had the accident not happened, so the liable party would be responsible for those expenses that the victim incurred as a result of their injuries and limitations.
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering. Pain is more than just an aversive physical sensation. There is a complex psychology to pain and the emotional distress in realizing that your physical body and sense of safety have been violated during the accident. Noneconomic damages may be subjective, but they are very real losses. Examples of non-economic losses include:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of the use of an organ, limb, or sense (vision, hearing, etc.)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Mental anguish
Often awarded in drunk driving cases, punitive damages are to punish or deter the defendant from ever repeating the reckless and outrageous behavior that caused the accident. Georgia law caps most punitive damages at $250,000.
How much should I ask for in pain and suffering from a car accident?
Many victims report feeling like their life is a big mess after their accident. They can’t participate in their kids’ lives as much because of their physical injuries, they have medical bills piling up, and their days are spent seeing doctors and specialists. This takes a huge mental toll on accident victims and is very emotionally distressing. Your attorney will argue for you to receive the maximum settlement possible to compensate you not only for your financial losses but those losses that cannot be quantified.
Calculating A Car Accident Settlement Amount
Now that you understand the different types of damages, it’s easier to see how settlements are calculated. All of your economic damages have a dollar amount attached to them that can be proven by evidence. Medical bills, pay stubs, invoices, and receipts are all types of evidence that are admissible to prove your losses. They are added together to generate the total sum of your economic losses.
Then, your economic losses are multiplied by a factor between 1.5 and five, depending on your pain and suffering. The greater your pain and suffering, the higher the multiplier. The insurance adjuster won’t necessarily tell you or your attorney what multiplier they will use, so it is your attorney’s goal to convince them and the court that you deserve the maximum compensation possible.
Example Of A Minor Car Accident
Here is one potential scenario to help you understand car accident settlements. Laura is driving home from work when a young, inexperienced driver hits the wrong pedal at a stop sign and hits her car. She hit her hands on the steering wheel and suffered whiplash, but thankfully the impact wasn’t hard enough to cause further injury. She has bruises on her hands and a very stiff, sore neck, so she stays home from work for three days. Her economic damages include medical bills for seeing a specialist to be assessed for injury, paying the body shop to fix her car, and lost wages for the few days she was healing at home. Her total economic losses were worth $3,500. Multiplied by a factor of 1.5, she could potentially receive $5,250 in compensation for her car accident.
Example of A Serious Car Accident
Mark is a father of two and teaches English at a community college. He also plays in a local band. One day he is hit by a distracted driver and suffers a concussion, multiple fractures in his arms and legs, and soft tissue damage. He has to take time off from the college to heal and won’t be able to return until at least the next semester. His treatments are effective, but he can’t help with bathtime, make music or be the father that he wants to be.
His total financial losses, including medical expenses and lost wages, are $57,000. Mark has suffered significant depression in his life since his accident as well as pain. However, he is expected to fully heal within a few months and not suffer lifelong symptoms. His multiplier could be as high as three, meaning that the total he would receive in compensatory damages is $171,000 (57,000 x 3). He hires a personal injury attorney who also helps him receive punitive damages from the negligent driver so that he can move forward with his life.