When it comes to a pending car crash case, there are two things you need to be mindful of from the moment the crash happens until the moment you receive your settlement. Those are fault and damages, very different concepts that are intertwined in how they impact your ability to recover after a crash. Yet many drivers don’t realize just how important this distinction is and what it means for their case. Allow us to explain.
“Damages” describe every financial expense you have or will have related to the crash. That includes your current and future medical bills, lost wages, medication fees, special equipment, property damage, vehicle repairs, etc. If you require long-term care or have a permanent disability because of the crash, those factors will be considered as well.
Damages may also include “pain and suffering” a term that describes the emotional trauma of having to experience a serious injury and is impacted by both the incident itself and your state of mind afterward. For example, if you develop a phobia of traveling in cars due to a crash, your attorney would fight for compensation relative to that trauma.
An experienced car accident attorney will be able to calculate the exact value of your current and future damages so you have a better chance of earning not just the compensation that you need to cover your bills but compensation for the trauma and pain you experienced.
Earning Your Rightful Compensation
The problem is that while your attorney has ways to determine the value of your injuries, the insurance company will likely try to undermine your claim, cast doubt, and use tactics that can reduce your appraised damages.
One of the most common ways they do this is by casting doubt on both the crash and your response to it. If you don’t have a police report documenting that a crash occurred, the insurance company could potentially claim that you don’t have proof your injuries were directly caused by the crash.
By the same token, the insurance companies can cast doubt on your claims if you wait to see a doctor, even if you have internal injuries that didn’t show symptoms for several days. They might even reduce your appraised damages if you skip doctor's appointments or reschedule too many times.
When you’re dealing with insurance companies, know that they are looking for any opportunity to use your own words against you. That’s why it’s always wise to take your attorney’s advice as they’ve helped many people in your position and know how the insurance company’s most common tactics.
Having your damages appraised is only half the battle. The other half is determining fault. You could have a million dollars in medical bills, but if the insurance companies determine you are just slightly more responsible for causing the crash, you could have a difficult time covering your bills.
That’s because Georgia uses a system of modified comparative negligence. In any car crash, each driver holds a % of fault. When this fault is combined, it adds up to 100%; no more, no less. Whoever holds more than 50% of that fault cannot recover any damages from their car insurance policy, meaning they can’t recover damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, or anything else even if they are severely or catastrophically injured.
The driver who holds less than 50% of the fault isn’t out of the woods just yet. That’s where the “modified” part takes effect. The appraised damages a driver receives for the accident are reduced by how much fault they hold. Here’s a simple example to illustrate:
- If Jason has $100,000 in damages and he is 80% responsible, he would receive nothing.
- If Jason has $100,000 in damages and he is 25% responsible, he would receive $75,000.
- If Jason has $100,000 in damages and he is 0% responsible, he would receive the full $100,000.
Just like damages, insurance companies are actively looking for anything that might demonstrate one driver is slightly more at fault than the other. The higher a driver’s fault, the less the insurance companies have to pay.
The problem is that fault assignment is very subjective. Every percentage point matters, but there’s no science to determine when someone should receive 24% of the fault or 28% of the fault. In these cases, each of those percentage points matter as they could reflect tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that the injured driver would otherwise have to cover through other means.
At the same time, the insurance company has a number of tactics that are specifically engineered to cause the driver who is not at-fault to take on a few more percentage points. We’ve examined a few of these in the past, but it’s critically important that everyone understand that the insurance company’s main priority is to reduce payouts when at all possible.
Because there is so much to lose, it’s recommended that you hire an experienced attorney to advise you and negotiate on your behalf. Your attorney can help you avoid some of the most common car accident pitfalls and simultaneously help you avoid fault redistribution. When you hire an attorney, you can fully focus on feeling better and recovering without having to worry about fighting against the insurance companies by yourself.
If you were seriously injured while on someone else’s property, we are here for you. To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney from Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC, please call (888) 425-6070 or send us an email.