Whether it’s a car accident case, a truck accident case, or any other injury claim, the point of financial compensation is to make up for what you lost. This is easy to do for damages that have an actual price tag attached to them. For example, the money you spent on an MRI or the cost of replacing your bumper. But what about “general damages?” Things like the amount of pain you’ve had to live with?
There is no actual dollar value on these losses, and yet they are in many ways much more severe than the actual medical bills. This kind of loss is often referred to as “pain and suffering” in an auto accident claim, and you can be awarded money for it. The money cannot undo what happened, but it can help offset the impact the injury has on your life.
How Much Is Pain and Suffering Usually Worth?
The amount of money awarded for pain and suffering varies widely from one case to another. Every injury is unique, and coming up with a dollar figure for pain is a complex process. In Georgia, pain and suffering will usually get based on several factors:
- How much does the injury interfere with normal living?
- Does the injury prevent you from enjoying life?
- Does it affect your capacity to work and earn money?
- Is the pain and suffering temporary, or will there be future pain and suffering?
- Did you or your family have to live in fear of the extent of the injury—for example, wondering if you will ever walk again?
- Does the injury limit your overall vigor or affect your general physical health?
- Is there mental anguish or emotional trauma that goes with the injury? Will there be in the future?
- Does the injury place any permanent, lifelong limits on your physical abilities?
Generally speaking, the more of these factors that apply to your injury, the more money you could be paid as a recovery for your pain and suffering. However, calculating that number is tricky and may require negotiation.
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Pain and Suffering Count as Non-Economic Damages
The latest road safety facts show that there are roughly 4.4 million injuries caused by car accidents each year that warrant medical attention. While medical bills are relatively straightforward to factor into your settlement, what about the pain and suffering you feel after the accident. Injuries, even after treatment, can cause you permanent discomfort and prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest, both physically and mentally.
Pain and suffering are non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are damages that don’t have any fixed value. This means that, unlike a medical bill or vehicle repair bill, non-economic damages fluctuate depending on various factors. Therefore, non-economic damages usually require a car accident lawyer to accurately evaluate.
Who Calculates Pain and Suffering?
Both your lawyer and the insurance company will calculate what dollar figure to assign to pain and suffering in your case. But they often use different methods to do so.
Your lawyer will evaluate how dramatically the injury has hurt your overall quality of life. This then gets translated to a dollar figure in comparison to other similar injuries and circumstances. If this process sounds unscientific, it’s because there is no black-and-white way to put a price on this kind of loss.
On the other hand, the insurance company is likely to use an algorithm to calculate a number automatically. They use a computer and plugin variables relating to your injury. The computer then gives a dollar amount. The insurance company’s number is often lower than your lawyer’s number. This is because the insurance company’s number is often closer to an “average” for injuries like yours, while your lawyer is using your specific circumstances to argue that the actual impact of your injury is worse than a computer program can show.
Don’t Let Insurance Companies Underestimate Your Pain and Suffering
Insurance companies aren’t on your side. Even after a terrible car accident that wasn’t your fault, they still have no incentive or obligation to pay you the full amount of pain and suffering compensation you deserve. Instead, they’ll try to get you to settle for less with their initial offer. Never accept this initial offer. Instead, consult with an attorney as soon as possible so you can negotiate for a fair settlement that properly accounts for your pain and suffering.
You have two years from the date of your car accident to file a claim for pain and suffering according to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) § 9-3-33. The faster you begin calculating your damages and building a case, the better chance you have of getting a proper settlement for your pain and suffering after a car accident.
How Does a Final Amount Get Agreed On?
In most cases, your lawyer and the insurance company will negotiate until you’re offered a number that’s acceptable to you. Your lawyer will have to show how severe your injury is and how strong your case is. The more likely you are to win in court, the more likely they are to offer a generous settlement.
Usually, the negotiation process above is all that’s needed, and you never have to go to court at all. If you and the insurance company cannot work out an agreement, a trial may be the best option. In this case, the jury will ultimately decide the amount you receive. But juries in some counties are more generous while those in other counties are more conservative. Your lawyer can help you understand the odds in your particular case and help you decide whether the trial is a good idea.
Have you been injured? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.