Atlanta Car Accident Settlement Lawyer
A severe car accident can leave a person with numerous injuries, a painful recovery process, and psychological pain. In these situations, negotiating a settlement with an insurance company should be the last thing on your mind. Fortunately, you do not have to do this alone. A competent Atlanta car accident attorney can explain how to settle a car accident case in Atlanta and fight for every bit of compensation that you are entitled to. One of the primary ways one of our attorneys could assist someone who wants to settle a car accident claim is by explaining the available insurance coverage and identifying the potential value of their case.
Who Determines the Amount of a Settlement in Atlanta?
Settlement amounts are often determined by the claimant, the insurance company, or the defense lawyers. In some cases, the amount of a settlement is dependent on the amount of available insurance. With adequate insurance, the value of the case could depend on a variety of factors:
- The person injured;
- The at fault party;
- The venue in which the case is pending;
- The extent of the injuries;
- The nature of the accident; and
- The specific attorney.
There is no single, specific factor that determines the value of a settlement but an experienced lawyer can help someone understand the dynamics involved, which factors add value to their case, and what could potentially hurt the value of their case.
Calculating a Settlement
The calculations for car accident settlements are often based on the understanding that there is a limited amount of insurance. If the case’s value equals or exceeds the policy limit, the settlement value may be calculated based in large part on the total applicable insurance.
However, liability insurance is only one part of the settlement calculation. There could be one settlement value for settling with the liability carrier and another value for settling with the UM carrier or underinsured/uninsured motorist carrier.
Settlement Timelines for Car Accident Cases in Atlanta
If someone sustains major injuries in a car accident, they are probably initially looking for the best way to cover their incurred medical expenses. While payment of medical expenses is an important consideration, that is only part of what should be considered in settling a claim. In the interest of avoiding potentially drawn-out litigation, an individual may want to accept the first settlement that is offered to them. However, this is usually unwise. With the assistance of one of our quality car accident attorneys, an injured person could get advice about the settlement timelines for car accident cases in Atlanta and use this knowledge to make informed decisions about when it is appropriate to consider settlement and what a reasonable resolution is.
Do Not Rush to Accept a Settlement
People tend to believe that they must settle their cases quickly. As a result, insurance companies often prey upon such beliefs to motivate injured people to settle a case prematurely. Instead, those who have suffered injuries in car accidents should take their time and allow their recovery to run its course. It might take time to fully understand the extent of a claimant’s injuries and to obtain the necessary medical bills and records to appropriately value the case. Once an individual has seen a doctor, they should hire a lawyer to investigate and determine the full value of their case. In general, a person should wait until they feel comfortable that they understand the nature and severity of their injuries before considering settlement.
How Long Does it Take to Receive a Settlement in Atlanta?
The length of time that it takes to receive a settlement is largely dependent on the nature of the case and the available insurance coverage. A case involving catastrophic injuries or wrongful death with minimum limits of coverage would likely settle quickly but for an amount that is simply inadequate.
Alternatively, if there is substantial insurance coverage or assets available to pay, the case may take longer. In this situation, the full value will likely require litigating and potentially trying the case. To help ensure that an injured individual receives their settlement in a timely manner, they should regularly communicate with their lawyer. A knowledgeable local attorney can help keep potential claimants informed of the overall plans for their cases while allowing their claims to keep moving through the system towards a resolution that is fair.
Overall, there is no set timeframe for when you should expect to receive a settlement. Each case is different. However, a claimant can expedite the process by involving an experienced lawyer who can immediately put all insurance carriers on notice and advocate for a full and fair resolution.
Damages in Atlanta Car Accidents
The goal of initiating a lawsuit after an accident is to recover compensation to account for the injuries and losses you have suffered. This compensation is known as damages. It is important to know how big of a damages award you are looking for when engaging in a settlement or jury trial. It can be difficult to know all of the damages you should be seeking after an Atlanta car accident, but an experienced motor vehicle collision attorney could assist you in putting together a winning case.
Types of Damages to Recover in a Car Accident Claim
Economic damages are expenses that have a hard dollar value attached, such as property damage, medical bills, lost wages, future medical expenses, nursing care, MRIs, and surgical treatment. A person’s auto insurance typically covers all of those damages.
Non-economic damages are the emotional, social, or psychological suffering that someone goes through after an accident. Individuals could be compensated for the loss of ability to perform daily activities such as caring for themselves, their family, their home, or their business. A plaintiff could also seek compensation for pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, psychological trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Non-economic damages in local auto collision accidents are determined by the jury. If a jury feels that someone should be compensated for the injury they suffered, it is up to the jury to determine how much it is worth. There are typically no caps on damages for economic damages or non-economic damages.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant who was engaged in egregious, reckless, or illegal conduct that consciously disregards the risks associated with it. The goal is for these financial punishments to serve to deter others from committing the same acts. One of our lawyers could help determine if punitive damages are appropriate in a specific case.
Most commonly, plaintiffs could win punitive damages if the at-fault driver was operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or it is proven that they purposely struck the other vehicle. Punitive damages might also be considered if a commercial vehicle driver had a prior record that indicated they had a propensity to drive dangerously. If the trucking company failed to counsel the driver on their poor record, or if they failed to abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations on background checks, they could be on the hook for additional compensation.
There is a cap on punitive damages available after an Atlanta car accident set at $250,000, unless the incident involves drugs or alcohol. Other personal injury practice areas, such as product liability, might not have a cap.
What is the Process of Arguing for Damages?
One of our attorneys could help the plaintiff recover damages by gathering all relevant compensable bills, as well as calculating the amount of wages that were lost while the plaintiff was recuperating. They could use those numbers to request a strong settlement amount. If a case goes to trial, they could prepare a strong argument to present to the jury explaining why the plaintiff deserves to be compensated for their losses.
In order to put together a strong case, we could investigate the accident and collect all available evidence, including witnesses and experts. We must be able to prove that the defendant was liable for the collision and could ensure the plaintiff continues their medical treatment so that the defense cannot argue that the injuries were minor. It is critical that all continuing medical expenses are accounted for in the damages calculation. In addition to confirming liability, we could also consider bringing in the plaintiff’s family or friends to testify as to the change in mental health or socialization of their loved one, which could help secure non-economic damages.
Issues Encountered in Negotiating Settlements
When negotiating a settlement without a lawyer, the insurance company might try to mislead an injured individual as to the value of their case. Insurance companies often focus on just the medical bills to give an injured person the impression that they can only recover certain parts of those bills, or that the value of their case is directly related to their medical expenses. This is not true. One of our experienced attorneys can help potential claimants understand the value of their case and why it likely exceeds what an insurance representative would have them believe.
The insurance company will often expect the injured person to sign a release in exchange for payment. Signing this document, however, releases any and all claims that the injured person has, including potentially valuable claims to underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. Instead, a claimant should sign a limited liability release in these situations, which preserves the injured party’s ability to pursue recovery from other insurance while simultaneously releasing the insurance company under which the initial settlement is done.
Delays in Receiving Settlement in a Motor Vehicle Accident Case
While it may seem appealing to quickly settle a car accident claim for damages, this course of action may not be beneficial in the long run. For instance, if someone’s injuries are significant, they may suffer consequences for the rest of their life. Insurance companies will gladly pay a fraction of the full value of the case, leaving people with a lifetime to figure out how to financially manage their injuries.
Conversely, getting full value or above full value for a case often requires pushing a case forward over time. Therefore, those who have been seriously injured in accidents should not focus on how long their case takes, but on resolving their case in such a way that they receive its full value.
A Jury’s Involvement in Calculating Settlements
Settlement calculations typically occur before a jury is involved. A jury is only involved after a case has been sent to trial. Juries can be involved in settlements that utilize high/low agreements, wherein the parties agree on the highest and lowest values a case will resolve. However, juries do not know the amounts of high/low agreements, making it their duty to determine what they believe the value of the case to be. If the jury’s value is between the high and low values that the parties agreed to, the case settles for that amount. If the jury determines that the value is above the parties’ high mark, the case settles for the high; if the jury comes to a number that is below the low mark, the case settles for the low.
If a case goes all the way to a jury trial without a high/low and the jury returns a verdict, either party could appeal this decision. However, this amount in the verdict could provide the party with a range that could be a potential settlement value to avoid an appeal.
How Can a Claimant’s Negligence Affect Settlement Amounts?
Negligence by the injured individual will affect the settlement value. In Atlanta, if a negligent person is at fault for 50 percent or more of a car accident, they are not able to recover. If a jury determines that the injured party’s percentage of fault is less than 50 percent, they would reduce the settlement amount by this amount. For example, if the jury determines that the injured person was 25 percent at-fault, the final judgment would be 75 percent of the verdict returned. Insurance companies may also use this method of allocating fault when determining how much to offer as a settlement.
How an Attorney Helps Determine the Value of a Settlement
One of the ways that one of our lawyers can help with the settlement process is identifying all available insurance coverage. Therefore, a claimant should not conclude that the only available insurance is what the at-fault driver tells them they have. The driver might be on the job or working for someone who could have additional applicable insurance coverage. Also, underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage could be implicated, but it is critically important that such insurance be notified promptly in order to preserve the ability to recover under such policy.
An experienced car accident attorney can help you understand what factors an insurance company might use to assess to value the case and help you determine the range of a reasonable settlement both pre-suit, post-suit, pre-trial, and post-trial.
Contact an Atlanta Attorney for Help Settling a Car Accident Claim
It is often not necessary that you go through a prolonged and difficult litigation in order to obtain fair compensation for the injuries you suffered. However, in order for the insurance company to treat you fairly it is often necessary that they know you have lawyers who will litigate and try a case in order to obtain full and fair compensation for an injured client. One of our compassionate lawyers can assist you with settling a car accident claim in Atlanta and ensuring you recover full and fair compensation for all injuries incurred. Call today to see what our firm can do for you.