There are several kinds of losses, or “damages” that you can claim after a car accident that was not your fault in Georgia:
- Special damages are the financial costs of the accident, including medical bills and lost time from work.
- General damages include non-financial losses such as pain and suffering and emotional trauma.
- Some accident victims are also eligible for punitive damages designed to punish the person responsible for the accident.
Most car accident victims are eligible for special damages. Many are also able to make a claim for pain and suffering. Punitive damages are only available in a few types of accidents where the driver who caused the accident was especially reckless. Most punitive damages claims involve drunk drivers. Finally, if a close family member was killed in an accident you and/or the deceased driver’s estate may be able to make a wrongful death claim.
What is included in special damages?
A serious accident can get expensive very quickly, especially if you are hospitalized or have to stay home from work because of your injuries. Special damages are awarded to make up for these kinds of expenses – both now and in the future. Special damages might include:
- Medical bills. Your damages claim might pay for doctors, hospital stays, MRIs, surgery and any other type of medical procedure.
- The cost of rehabilitation, either in a rehab center or in outpatient physical or occupational therapy.
- The pay you will lose as a result of being unable to go back to work after the accident.
If treatment has been completed, special damages can be proved by the bills you’ve accumulated, and evidence of your pay rate and the amount of time you missed from work. If you are more seriously injured and will need ongoing care or have a long-term disability, experts can estimate what your injuries are likely to cost in the future.
What are “pain and suffering” and other general damages?
The law recognizes that if you are seriously injured, your medical bills are just part of the cost. You may have to adjust to a whole new way of life, where you can’t do some of the things you used to enjoy the most. You may be unable to go back to your old job. Perhaps you can’t take care of your family the way you used to. And you may have pain that never seems to go away.
These are the kinds of wounds that are covered by a pain and suffering claim. Pain and suffering can also include emotional trauma, which is common among car accident victims. Even emotionally healthy people can develop signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and anxiety. This can be compounded if you are also coping with a life-altering injury.
There aren’t bills and invoices to prove pain and suffering, so insurance companies usually use a formula. They calculate your special damages and then multiply them by a number from 1 to 5 that represents the severity of your injuries – with one being the least serious and five being the most.
What is a wrongful death claim?
If someone loses their life in a car accident, the closest family members can bring a claim for wrongful death. A wrongful death claim tries to put a dollar value on the life that was lost, providing financial relief for the family members whose lives are most dramatically affected by their loved one’s passing.
The deceased person’s estate can also bring a claim for the general and special damages that the deceased would have been entitled to if he or she had lived, including medical bills and pain and suffering before death.
Do I need a lawyer to recover damages?
No, you can simply accept the first offer you get from the insurance company. However, you should be aware that the insurance company offer is not nearly the full amount you are entitled to. If you take this money, that’s all you’ll ever get.
A car accident lawyer can help you by finding out the full extent of your injuries, and what they will cost you over the course of your life. Armed with this information, a lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company or take your case to court, to get you ALL of your general and special damages, plus anything else you are entitled to.
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