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, or a permanent change in how your body works? There is no actual dollar value on these losses, and yet they are in many ways far more serious 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.
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 be based on a number of 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, actually calculating that number is tricky—and may require negotiation.
Who calculates pain and suffering?
Both your lawyer, and the insurance company, will make their own calculation as to what dollar figure to assign to pain and suffering in your case. But they often use different methods to do so.
Your lawyer will consider all the factors above to construct an idea of how dramatically the injury has hurt your overall quality of life. This is then translated to a dollar figure in comparison to other, similar injuries and circumstances. If this process sounds unscientific, it’s because it is: there is no black-and-white way to put a price on this kind of loss.
The insurance company, on the other hand, is likely to use an algorithm to calculate a number automatically. They use a computer and plug in 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.
How is a final number 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 not only how serious your injury is, but also 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, however, 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 your odds in your particular case and help you decide whether 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.