Jarrett & Price, LLCWhen people ask, “What is my case worth?” what they are really asking is, “What is the total value of my damages?” While another person may have been responsible for causing your accident, there is no value to the case without an estimate of damages. The personal injury attorney’s job is to prove the value of all potential damages in the case and therefore maximize the value of the claim.
In Georgia, damages fall under two primary forms: general and special. Special damages are the specific monetary cost of the injury, such as past medical bills and other identifiable economic costs of the injury such as lost wages. General damages are more subjective and include physical and emotional pain and suffering, among others. The following is a list of the most common damage theories recognized by Georgia law.
Past Medical Expenses
This is the most common form of special damages in an accident case. Victims can recovery for all medical costs associated with the accident, including their emergency room visits, ambulance costs, hospital stays, diagnostic tests, physical therapy and prescription drugs, medical appliances, among others. In many cases, this is the largest category of damages.
Future Medical Expenses
In addition to past medical expenses, the victim can recover for estimated future medical expenses that have not yet occurred but are likely. This is usually an estimate based on the estimated cost of a surgery or repeated medical care that will be required over several months or even years due to the injury. These damages can be especially high in a catastrophic injury case where the victim is rendered paraplegic or quadriplegic, or suffers a debilitating injury that will require professional care or numerous medical procedures for years to come.
Physical and/or Emotional Pain and Suffering
Obviously serious injuries suffered in an accident often cause physical pain and suffering. In addition to the physical pain of an injury, there is also mental and emotional anguish that can accompany a serious injury.
Because there is no objective way to put a monetary value on “pain,” there is no specific rule or “yardstick” to measure these types of damages. The exact dollar figure that attaches to this category of damages is left to the discretion of a jury. The more painful the injury, the higher the estimate of damages.
An injury is disfiguring if it negatively alters the victim’s appearance. The monetary award for this category of damages is also left to the discretion of the jury, who can consider the possibility of shame or scorn when making this calculation.
Loss or Impairment of Mental or Physical Capacity
These damages fall under pain and suffering, and are relevant when an injury may have caused short-or long-term physical or mental impairment.
Loss of Consortium
In addition to the victims claims for damages, the victim’s spouse may also have claims for “loss of consortium.” For example, if a man is seriously injured in an accident and in the hospital or bed-ridden for several weeks or months, their spouse has a claim for loss of intimacy, companionship and other losses due to the injury. These are known as derivative claims.
Loss of Enjoyment
This theory of damages is claimed when the injuries suffered stop the victim from enjoying life the way that they did prior to the accident. For example, if the victim was an avid golfer before the accident but injured their shoulder so severely they can no longer golf, then the victim could claim loss of enjoyment of this activity. This category is also very high where the victim receives a life-altering type of injury, such as one that will prevent them walking again or able to work or complete normal daily activities.
Lost Wages – Loss of Income, Earning Capacity, and Future Fringe Benefits
These damages cover the money lost while the victim is recovering from the injury. If the injury is serious enough that the victim will not be able to return to work, then the victim can seek damages for the wages that they would have earned had they not been injured. If the victim will never be able to return to work, then they may present evidence of what they would have earned over their lifetime if the injury had not occurred.
These are damages meant to punish the negligent party for causing the injury. In order to recover punitive damages, the victim has to prove that the at-fault party acted intentionally, or was more than merely negligent, and acted wantonly or with reckless disregard for the safety of others. This is most often relevant in auto accidents when alcohol or drugs are involved. In many situations in Georgia, punitive damages are capped at $250,000, except for intentional conduct or actions arriving out of the use of drugs or alcohol.
Damages in a Fatality Case (Wrongful Death Damages)
When a fatality occurs due to an accident there is a specific set of damages available to the victim’s surviving spouse, children or other relatives, known as wrongful death benefits. The standard for wrongful death damages is the value of the life of the victim. There are also other damages available to the victims estate. For more information on wrongful death damages click here.
Without damages a case has no value. Identifying all potential sources of damages and being able to prove them is the job of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The attorneys at Jarrett & Price represent accident victims throughout the state of Georgia with offices in Clarkesville, Georgia, Cleveland, Georgia, and Savannah. If you have been injured in an accident, call 912-401-8880 to schedule a free consultation and an attorney WILL return your call.