Economic Damages in Georgia
If you’ve suffered an injury due to an accident in Georgia, it’s important to calculate the damages so that you receive a fair settlement or judgment for your personal injury case.
There are three types of damages available:
- Economic damages, also called special damages.
- Non-economic damages, or general damages (such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of earning capacity, disability, or loss of reputation).
- Punitive damages. These are awarded to a plaintiff to punish a defendant due to their actions when they indicate willful misconduct, malice, or indifference to consequences.
There is generally no limit on economic damages or general damages, but there are some limits of punitive damages.
Types of Economic Damages
Economic damages are the total amount of your losses due to the following:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Other direct expenses due to the injury
Whereas property damage and other direct expenses can be fairly simple to calculate, future medical costs and lost income are more difficult. Nevertheless, while difficult, Georgia case law provides that while “the exact measure of the earnings may be challenging … to calculate, [this] does not preclude their recovery.”
So, it’s worth taking the time to reasonably estimate these future costs and losses.
Calculating Medical Costs
There are two types of medical expenses – past and future.
Past expenses are easier to quantify because you likely have evidence of your expenses, such as medical bills.
Future medical needs are more difficult to calculate. According to Georgia law, this calculation “must be supported by competent evidence.”
The challenge in a personal injury case is that you can’t go back and ask for more later once you settle or receive a judgment. So, it’s necessary to estimate the future costs of your medical injuries.
Once your condition has become relatively stable, your healthcare provider expert can make reasonable predictions about future needs such as:
- Physical therapy
- Prescription pain relief
- Lab tests
- Follow-up visits
- Physical or other assistive devices such as wheelchairs or prosthetics
- Home health care or other assisted living
Not only is it critical to capture all the anticipated costs above, but it is also equally important to take into account that the costs of medical care continue to increase rapidly.
To help deal with these complexities, it is often necessary to hire a life care planning expert. This specialist estimates the future costs of the relevant items listed above and factors in assumed rates of medical inflation. They also consider other factors like your age, general health prior to injury, and the state of medical care in your general area.
Once all these factors are considered and calculated, it is necessary to discount the rate to bring costs down to their approximate present value.
Calculating Lost Income
There are three types of lost income – past lost wages, future lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.
The first two are considered economic damages under Georgia law, whereas loss of earning capacity is a general damage, not an economic damage.
Past Lost Wages
These are fairly easy to calculate.
For example, if your salary is $6,000 per month and you missed three months of work due to your accident, the past lost wages would be $18,000. Note that under Georgia law, if you’re not earning wages at the time of the injury, it’s generally not possible to seek lost wages.
Of course, this can get much more complicated. For instance, you may be self-employed and earn a widely varying amount of money each month. Or you may make hourly wages, with widely fluctuating hours of overtime.
All in all, however, a reasonable calculation is generally possible.
Future Lost Wages
Calculating future lost wages is trickier because you have to take into account possible raises and other factors.
These all depend on:
- Age. Are you 25 with a bright career ahead of you, or 63 and almost ready to retire?
- Type of Industry. What’s the future of the industry you work in. Is it an industry on the decline (like manufacturing corded phones or selling books in a store)? Or is it an industry projected to grow rapidly (such as healthcare or software development)?
- Promotional Possibilities. Have you gone as far as you can go in a career? Or are you on a career track with high potential (such as a lawyer being groomed to be a partneritem’s fair market value.
Why Legal Counsel is Crucial in Estimated Economic Damages
While past medical bills and lost wages are reasonably easy to calculate, future medical costs and future lost wages are more difficult, and this is an area that causes dispute and litigation.
You need not only the legal guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to wade through these challenges, but equally important, you need an attorney to hire the right experts for you. These experts may include a life care planning expert for future medical expenses.
They may also include an economic expert or insurance adjuster to help estimate lost future wages. They can make the difference in getting fair compensation for economic damages you suffered due to another’s negligence.