Without a monetary cap on damages, the average pain and suffering settlement in Georgia can vary greatly
In a personal injury lawsuit, the demonstration of physical and emotional harm is an important element to winning your case. Venturing further, Georgia law allows injured parties to recover compensation for the physical and emotional effects of all injuries sustained in an accident. These damages are often referred to as “pain and suffering.”
Most states have their own statutes or rules establishing the maximum amount of damages awarded to accident victims. Georgia’s specific law on pain and suffering (OCGA 9-10-184) states:
"In the trial of a civil action for personal injuries, counsel shall be allowed to argue the worth or monetary value of pain and suffering to the jury; provided, however, that any such argument shall conform to the evidence or reasonable deductions from the evidence in the case."
Thus Georgia’s statute is fairly broad and allows the jury to determine damages without a monetary cap.
But first, what is pain and suffering, exactly?
Pain and suffering defined
From a legal standpoint, pain and suffering refers to distinct elements of harm. “Pain” refers to any discomfort and injuries from the accident. Broken bones, lacerations, whiplash and the side effects of surgery are only a few examples of this category. “Suffering” covers effects such as mood disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.), despair over physical limitations and loss of consortium with your spouse or partner.
Pain and suffering also refers to more than just immediate harm from a car accident or motorcycle accident. Conditions such as future discomfort and long-term mental anguish are also taken in account by the state of Georgia. These considerations are helpful for people who experience particularly traumatic accidents or severe injuries.
In short, costs for medical care such as long-term pain management, emotional recovery and psychological care should be factored into your financial award or settlement.
Distinction between general and special damages in Georgia
Georgia classifies personal injury compensation into two categories: general and special damages. General damages are those that aren’t easily assigned a dollar value. The loss of a child or the trauma of losing a limb are examples of general damages. Pain and suffering also falls into the category of general damages, and the compensation awarded varies from case to case.
Special damages are those that can be identified as a specific amount. Loss of income due to time off and medical bills are examples of special damages. They have a specific, quantifiable amount associated with them.
Factors to consider when calculating pain and suffering
As Georgia’s statute doesn’t restrict the damage cap limit for pain and suffering, a wide array of factors may be presented to the judge or jury in order to receive the highest potential sum.
- Interference with everyday life
- Inability to enjoy daily activities
- Loss of capacity to hold employment and earn wages
- Disturbance to family life
- Distress to loved ones
- Fear of extent of injury
- Physical shock from participation in an accident
- Physical injuries
- Mental and emotional distress
- Limitations of movement
- Medical bills and treatment involved
Not all of the above considerations are required to recover pain and suffering damages. Rather, any one of these factors could be enough to receive compensation. The severity of each factor will also affect your awarded amount. For example, a parent who is no longer physically able to care for his or her child may recover more than a person who is bedridden for a short duration.
Since many of the factors are difficult for a judge or jury members to establish a clear, irrefutable value, accident victims are strongly encouraged to keep track of all doctor visits and any other health activity, such as attendance at support groups, visits with social works, etc. An accident journal detailing a truthful account of how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally, is also an aid to pain and suffering calculations.
Statute of limitations for recovering pain and suffering in Georgia
As with all accident lawsuits, the ability to recover damages is dependent on the timely commencement of the plaintiff’s case. Below are some of Georgia’s statutes of limitations:
Georgia Statutes of Limitation
|Type of Case||Time Limit to File Suit||Georgia Statute|
|Personal injury||2 years||OCGA §9-3-33|
|Injury to property||4 years||OCGA §9-3-32|
|Libel and slander||1 year||OCGA §9-3-33|
|Professional malpractice||2 years, max. of 5 from act||OCGA §9-3-71|
|Trespass||4 years||OCGA §9-3-30|
|Written contracts||6 years||OCGA §9-3-24|
|Oral contracts||4 years||OCGA §9-3-26|
|Collection of debt on account||4 years||OCGA §9-3-25|
|Judgments||5 years foreign judgment||OCGA §9-3-20|
If a plaintiff files a complaint after the time limit has passed, the potential for recovery will be lost and the lawsuit will be dismissed.
Impact of fault on your accident claim
Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning the injured party must have been less than 50% responsible for an accident in order to recover damages. Additionally, a person’s damages will be reduced by his or her percent of fault.
For example, if your pain and total damages were found to be $100,000, but you were 25% at fault, then you would only be eligible to receive $75,000.
How will the value of pain and suffering be calculated?
Pain and suffering typically refers to damages that don’t have a specific dollar amount attached to them. The judge or jury decides what is a reasonable total based on the evidence presented in your case.
As Georgia doesn’t put a monetary cap on pain and suffering damages, the “multiplier method” is a common technique to calculating the cost for pain and suffering. With this mathematical approach, the cost of one’s medical bills is calculated and then multiplied by a value between 1 and 5. The more severe and permanent the injury, the higher the multiplier.
For example, if your medical bills were $25,000 and the multiplier assigned to the damages was 4, then you could receive up $100,000 in damages.
Damages in wrongful death lawsuits
In Georgia, damages for wrongful death suits are awarded in a similar manner to pain and suffering calculations. The family of the victim can recover economic and non-economic damages without a monetary cap. The economic damages pertain to the estimated future earnings of the deceased and can be calculated for all victims, including children and stay at home spouses. The non-economic damages are less concrete and attempt to place a monetary value on the significance of the victim’s life to his or her family and the extent of their loss.
These damages are calculated with many of the same factors considered when evaluating pain and suffering. Punitive damages are also possible, but rarely awarded.