How to calculate the value of your lawsuit based on average damages and settlement values
Calculating damages after an accident in Georgia is important so you receive an accurate settlement or judgment. Not only should you be reimbursed for all medical bills, lost wages and property damage, but you should also be compensated for pain and suffering. Why should you pay for someone else’s negligence?
While you shuffle your case through the Georgia court or insurance systems, take a moment to crunch some numbers and find out what your injuries are potentially worth.
What is included in personal injury calculations?
In Georgia, like other states, there are three types of damages available:
- Economic (special) damages
- Non-economic (general) damages
- Punitive damages
The first category, economic or special damages, are easily quantifiable and can be added up by calculating losses:
- Medical bills
- Lost income
- Property damage or lost property
- Other out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of injury
Make sure to keep invoices and receipts in a safe place so your attorney can use them later. Try our damages and expenses worksheet to start a log.
Also, keep in mind that you may incur future medical expenses, especially if you have a chronic injury as a result of your accident. Your lawyer can help you determine how much is appropriate to demand of the opposing party or insurance company.
Typical Factors Used to Determine Injury Claim Value of an Accident
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Lost wages may also require future calculations if your ability to work has changed. Your attorney will refer to an actuary or economist to figure out what you would have earned over your expected lifetime, had you been able to continue working.
This type of compensation is far more difficult to calculate. How does one attach a number to subjective concepts like “pain and suffering,” “anxiety and stress,” “loss of enjoyment,” or “loss of consortium”?
This is why juries can return wildly different judgments for similar cases; everyone has a personal idea of what something is worth. Averaging those numbers together is often how juries approach this calculation. For example, in this tragic story of acute water intoxication, the jury had to determine the value of a human life, the loss of a mother, the loss of a wife, the loss of companionship, and far more.
There are two ways that the insurance companies approach this calculation:
- The multiplier approach (the insurance company will add up special damages and multiply it by a number between 1.5 and 4 — or 5, if injuries are especially grievous)
- Daily rate (or per diem)
The multiplier approach
How high will the multiplier be? That depends on:
- How serious your injuries are
- How quickly you’re expected to recover
- How your injuries affect your daily life
- How well those injuries were documented by medical professionals
- The diagnosis and prognosis
- Whether you will experience ongoing issues
- How much fault is apportioned to the other party
Remember, Georgia is a comparative negligence state, meaning that if you’re more than 50% responsible for your injuries, then you will be barred from recovering damages.
This method is used most often by insurance companies when trying to calculate damages. Most likely, your attorney will have to argue for a higher multiplier.
Daily rate or per diem
This method demands a dollar amount for each day you live with your injuries. Juries are often told to use their best judgment when calculating this type of award, so it can help to use a plaintiff’s daily pay rate as a starting point. This method, however, is difficult for longer-term injuries. Your attorney may make the argument that living with this pain is at least worth what you would make during a normal work day.
Punitive damages in Georgia
Punitive damages are meant to punish defendants for egregious or reckless conduct. These are capped at $250,000 (with 75% paid into the state treasury), unless it’s a product liability case, or the defendant acted intentionally or under the influence of mind-altering substances.
These awards are rare and not meant to serve as compensation to the plaintiff. They must also be asked for in the initial complaint; a request for punitive damages cannot be tacked on later in the process.
The statute of limitations in Georgia
Tort actions in Georgia have a two-year statute of limitations, or the time window in which a plaintiff can file a lawsuit.
Even if you’re confident in the facts of your case, it’s wise to leave yourself plenty of time to prepare a litigation strategy. Consult with an experienced Georgia lawyer to make sure you don’t miss any important filing deadlines.
The first meeting with an attorney is normally free, so check out the Georgia page in our law firm directory to get started today.