If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, that driver’s insurance company is required to compensate you for injuries caused by its driver’s negligence. What many people do not know and what insurance companies will not tell you is exactly how much an insurance company is responsible for paying you in Georgia to compensate you for your injuries.
Unfortunately, some insurance companies may even try to mislead you into believing that they only have to cover your out-of-pocket expenses that were not covered by your own automobile or health insurance. That simply is not true. This, among other important reasons, is why it is always advisable that you seek the advice of a competent Atlanta car accident lawyer.
Generally speaking there are three main categories of compensation an injury victim is entitled to receive:
Medical Expenses—-Past and Future
Pain and Suffering—Past, Present and Future
Each of these categories of compensation are deserving of its own article. Below we touch on the basics of each category to give you an overview of how each is valued in Georgia.
In Georgia, if you are injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to be made whole. While there are sometimes physical and emotional injuries that can never actually be made whole again after an accident, the mechanism the law provides for making you as whole as possible is financial compensation. Making you whole means putting you back in the position you were in right before the car accident or as close to it as is legally and physically possible.
Some insurance companies may try to convince you that reimbursing your out-of-pocket expenses that were not covered by your own health insurance and paying you for any time you missed from your job makes you whole because you have been reimbursed for what the accident actually cost you. That is not the law in Georgia. You are entitled to have the insurance company pay the full cost of each and every one of your medical and pharmacy bills as if you did not have any health insurance.
The negligent driver’s insurance does not get to benefit from the fact that you have health insurance which negotiates discounted rates with your medical providers and covers a large chunk of your medical bills. If the emergency room visit cost $10,000 and your health insurance paid $3,000.00, you are entitled to be compensated $10,000 by the negligent driver’s insurance. Your health insurance may require you to reimburse them some of that $10,000 through a process known as subrogation, but a skilled personal injury attorney can usually negotiate a favorable settlement of any subrogation claim asserted by your health insurance that allows you to keep most of that money.
In addition to paying the full cost of your medical and pharmacy bills, the negligent driver’s insurance is also required to reimburse you for any time you missed from work as a result of the accident. Even if you were technically paid by your employer through the use of sick leave or vacation leave, you are still entitled to be reimbursed for the hours you missed from work as if you did not have paid leave available. If you own your own business, you may be able to recover additional compensation if your injuries negatively impacted your business’s profits.
On top of paying your full medical bills, lost wages, and any other expenses directly caused by the accident and injuries, the insurance company should also compensate you for your pain and suffering. Unlike medical bills and lost wages, the dollar value of pain and suffering is very difficult to quantify and is highly subjective. As a result, this is the measure of compensation that is fought over the most during lawsuits.
Only you and perhaps your close friends and family truly know how much your injuries have caused you pain and suffering, but the individuals who ultimately would place a dollar value on it are twelve strangers on a jury who hear your case. Pain and suffering is usually calculated as a multiple of your quantifiable losses, (known as special damages) which include medical bills and lost wages.
Whether your special damages should be multiplied by two, three, or some other number to arrive at your total compensation including pain and suffering is influenced by numerous factors. Some of those factors include the degree of your injuries, the extent of your treatment, your diligence in complying with treatment instructions from your doctors, the level of negligence exhibited by the insured driver, any pre-existing injuries you had, and how sympathetic jurors in the negligent driver’s county of residence (where any lawsuit would have to be filed) are likely to be to your case.
If you are injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver and are forced to file a claim with your own uninsured motorist insurer (called UM insurance), these same rules governing required compensation still apply to uninsured motorist claims. UM insurance is a unique situation that can be quite complicated in and of itself. We have written many times on the subject. Check out our car accident injury page for articles on this topic.