When you have a car accident case on your hands, there are many routes to resolving the claim. Going to court is usually one way to get the case resolved, but can you actually get fair compensation without going to court? Will you miss out on damages if you do not file the claim in a court of law?
Generally speaking, any injury case can be settled completely out of court, including a car accident case. When you settle through insurance, that case does not go to court, nor does it typically need approval from a judge. This is, in fact, one of the most common ways to resolve a car accident case. But when you trust insurance companies, you could end up shortchanged on damages.
For help with your car accident case, call Howe Law’s Georgia car accident lawyers for a free case review at (844) 876-4357.
Ways to Resolve a Car Accident Case in Georgia
In an injury claim, there might be insurance available to cover the damages you suffered. In Georgia, every driver is required to carry car insurance, so there will almost certainly be insurance involved in your case. Filing a claim with the insurance company can get you damages without ever setting foot in a courtroom and without having to file anything with the court. However, there are other routes to resolving your case that might end up paying higher damages, and it is important to explore all of your options to determine what is best for you and your case:
Accepting an Insurance Payout
If you file a claim with insurance and accept that payout, that functions as a legal settlement and usually comes with paperwork releasing the driver from any further damages. You might be able to get your case fully paid this way, but insurance companies are usually reluctant to pay full damages and might not willingly pay you everything you deserve.
However, this route to resolving a case is often fast and can get damages paid to you quite quickly, even if they ultimately are missing big portions of the compensation you need. This route to compensation does not require you to go to court.
Negotiating with Insurance
Your Athens, GA car accident lawyers can negotiate with the insurance company if the initial settlement offer you are given is too low. Insurance companies usually start with a low settlement, but this gives you and your lawyer room to raise the bar and ask for additional damages.
When you settle this way, it also functions as a legal settlement and ends your case, but it might mean higher damages. This settlement also does not need to go to court, but you might be able to file a lawsuit in the interim and use that to pressure better negotiations.
Filing a Lawsuit
When you file a lawsuit, it does not mean that you have to take that case all the way through to trial. Most injury claims are ultimately settled, even if they are filed in court.
When you file your injury case, you will have “gone to court,” but only for the initial stages. These initial stages can typically be handled by your lawyer, and you might not even need to appear personally in the courtroom to get the case filed and started this way.
Once a case has been filed and served on the defendant, the pressure is on. If they cannot come up with a fair settlement, the alternative is to go to trial where they might lose and pay even higher damages. Because of this, many insurance companies and drivers will be more willing to negotiate at this stage.
When you take your case to court, you can also get the court’s subpoena power on your side. The “discovery” stage of a court case allows you access to interviews with witnesses and access to evidence and records in their control that might help you prove your case. If the defense knows their case is weak, they might be more likely to settle fairly – and going to court empowers you to get access to that additional evidence.
When you file a lawsuit, you do not necessarily need to “go to court” to settle it. Settlements do not necessarily need to be approved by a judge, and you can have “out of court” settlements even after the case has been filed in court. When a judge does require approval, they are usually willing to accept whatever terms the party agrees to.
Going to Trial
If you want to take your case all the way to trial, that is an option. When you go to trial, you will usually have to appear personally in court, testify about what happened, and wait for a jury verdict in your case.
This is the alternative to settling, but it is not required; all of the other options are usually still available, even if you do end up filing the case in court.
However, when you do go to trial, you might be able to get additional damages. For one, courts are often willing to award higher pain and suffering damages than insurance companies. Additionally, courts can award punitive damages in rare cases, paying you extra money to punish the defendant’s bad actions.
Will You Miss Out on Damages if You Settle Your Georgia Car Accident Case Out of Court?
In general, the same “compensatory” damages can be claimed in an insurance claim, settlement, or lawsuit. These are the damages that pay you back for the harm you faced, such as medical bills, lost wages, and non-economic damages (like pain and suffering).
Insurance companies are sometimes unwilling to award full damages, especially for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, since they are harder to prove with so-called “hard evidence.” Nonetheless, a settlement might achieve full damages for these harms as well.
Settlements do often take some of the damages away to account for the savings in not having to pay for legal fees and court filings, but this is not necessarily fair, and your lawyer can advise you on whether a settlement is ultimately reasonable or not.
Another area of damages you might miss out on by not filing in court is punitive damages, so speak with a lawyer about whether they would be available or likely in your case anyway.
Contact Our Georgia Car Accident Attorneys Today
If you were injured in a crash, call the Harrison, GA car accident lawyers at Howe Law today at (844) 876-4357.