What Should a Fair Motorcycle Accident Settlement Cover?
At the most basic level, a successful personal injury case is about recovering damages. Your accident has caused you to suffer physically and financially, and very often mentally and emotionally as well. Your accident settlement should provide fair compensation for these very real losses.
Damages can be classified into three broad categories: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages (also known as “special damages”) compensate you for the quantifiable economic costs due to the wreck. This includes things like:
- Medical expenses associated with your wreck, including ambulance, hospital, and doctors’ bills
- The cost of medication and medical devices (like wheelchairs and ramps)
- Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitation services
- Nursing care and long-term care services
- Wage loss and reduced earning capacity
- Property damage
- Cost of necessary household services (like housecleaning and lawn care)
Economic damages cover not only your current losses (bills you already have), but those that you are reasonably expected to have in the future—such as future surgeries, chronic pain management, long-term care, and wage loss due to permanent disability.
Because motorcycle accidents are frequently catastrophic and often require ongoing care, it’s extremely important that these future damages are estimated accurately. Accepting a settlement that’s too small might provide for your needs for the next 5, 10, or even 15 years, but will eventually lead to unnecessary financial hardship.
At The Brown Firm, we frequently consult with doctors, economists, long-term care planners, and other expert witnesses. Armed with this information, we can fully understand your long-term needs and stand up for you in negotiations with the insurance company, and if necessary, in court.
There is no cap on economic damages for a motorcycle accident in either Georgia or South Carolina.
RELATED: What Are Special Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Also known as “general damages,” non-economic damages compensate you for losses that don’t have an obvious financial cost associated with them, but still significantly affect your lifestyle and quality of life. Common examples include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress (post-traumatic stress, anxiety, embarrassment or shame, depression, and other conditions)
- Loss of enjoyment of life (for example, no longer being able to perform your favorite activities or hobbies)
- Loss of companionship (for example, no longer being able to enjoy the benefits normally associated with marriage or parenting)
Because non-economic damages are relatively subjective, the amounts awarded can vary significantly even for seemingly similar cases. The skill and experience of your personal injury attorney can make a difference in terms of what you are likely to recover from a settlement or jury.
There is no cap on non-economic damages for a motorcycle accident in either Georgia or South Carolina.
RELATED: Do I Need a Lawyer For Pain and Suffering?
Punitive damages are relatively rare, but juries and judges will sometimes award them in a motorcycle accident case. They are intended to punish an at-fault party for extreme negligence or recklessness, rather than to compensate you directly for your losses.
For example, say you were stopped at a stoplight, and were rear-ended by a speeding drunk driver. In addition to paying your economic and non-economic damages, the court might add punitive damages to punish the defendant, since their actions went far beyond a “simple” mistake.
In Georgia, there is normally a cap of $250,000 on punitive damages for motorcycle accidents. However, there is no cap in cases where the at-fault driver either:
- Was under the influence of alcohol or drugs (other than those legally prescribed), or
- Acted intentionally to injure another person.
In South Carolina, punitive damages are limited to either $500,000, or three times the combined amount of economic and non-economic damages awarded—whichever is greater.