Under Georgia law, when another driver causes a car wreck that injures another, then the at-fault driver must compensate the injured parties for all damages caused. Recovery includes special damages, meaning any past and future medical expenses, and lost wages, and general damages, meaning pain and suffering. Seeking damages from an at-fault driver’s insurance is the basis for personal injury law.
But who determines what amount of damages that the at-fault driver should pay? Our civil justice system is going to make that determination, either through a jury verdict or by the judge in a bench trial.
Most cases settle prior to trial because it is often more advantageous to reach a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance than go through the court system. In Georgia, each pays their own attorney fees and expenses. Therefore, the cost in time and money will often chew up some of the injured person’s recovery. So for a hypothetical example, if the verdict is $100,000, but it cost $20,000 to try the case (think expert fees, deposition costs, etc), the injured party cannot request the extra $20,000 in most instances. At the end of the day, the injured party will have only the $80,000. So, seeing it all the way through to verdict may unnecessarily take money out of the pocket of the injured person.
A case only must go to trial for resolution if the parties cannot settle on a recovery amount. The personal injury attorney representing the injured person would generally only find it feasible to settle for a case that would somewhere between the estimated verdict amount less the estimated expense of time and money, factoring in the uncertainty of the trial process. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will attempt to do the opposite, paying out as little as possible in order to prevent a lawsuit. When the parties cannot settle on a number, then a lawsuit will have to be filed in order to get a final resolution.
There are many, many, other factors that go into settling a case, but this is a general outline. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car wreck, and you have a question about whether your case will go to court, then please, feel free to call and speak to our experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers today. Our consultations are always free.