What Is My Eminent Domain Case Worth?

By law, you’re owed “just compensation” when the government takes your property. They won’t tell you what’s “just.” We can help you fight for it.

Have You Just Been Notified by the DOT That They Want to Take Your Land?

For many property owners, the news is both shocking and confusing. It might mean a loss of income for your business or it might even require your family to relocate. 

The first question people often have is, do I have to sell my land to the government? Unfortunately, the answer is, yes, almost certainly. In Georgia, the DOT can generally take what they want in the name of “public use.” 

The second question you may have is about compensation. Compensation is understandably the most urgent concern for many land owners who find themselves in the DOT’s crosshairs. So, does eminent domain require compensation? Yes. But that just raises another question: What is a fair offer on your land? 

It’s important to know that the government wants your property for as low a price as possible. However, you are entitled to just compensation for the highest and best use of your land. What does that mean, and when do you get your actual compensation in hand? Let’s unpack everything in detail.

How much is my eminent domain case worth?

When the DOT condemns your property, you are entitled to just compensation. But how is just compensation determined for eminent domain negotiations? 

In eminent domain, fair market value is the basis for calculating your just compensation. Assuming the owner is not under pressure to sell and the buyer is not desperate to buy, what would this property go for on the open market? This analysis is how you can begin to discover how much the government should pay in your case.

Fair market value

While this sort of calculation doesn’t account for sentimental value associated with the property (which is often significant), it does allow for consideration of how a buyer might use or develop the land in a way that increases its value. 

Tip: If the government is only taking part of your property, your likely compensation is the difference in the fair market value of your property before the taking and after.

fair market value

The reasonable person standard

Are your expectations for compensation from the DOT reasonable? Said another way, would a reasonable buyer pay the amount you’re asking for the property? For example, it’s probably not reasonable to expect your property to be worth a lot of money when all similar properties are being foreclosed. However, it is probably reasonable to expect the DOT to pay more for your developed property than they paid for your neighbor’s vacant farmland. 

Of course, reasonable people can disagree over what is reasonable. That’s why eminent domain attorneys exist: So that you have resources, knowledge, and experience on your side to even the playing field in your negotiations with the government. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

An attorney can evaluate your case for free. Why take any chances? Call today to find out how much compensation you could receive.

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Highest and best use in eminent domain

The government is obligated to compensate you for your property based on its highest and best use. This means the most valuable way your property could reasonably be used.

Yes, vacant land could theoretically be turned into a large development, but it’s unlikely if it’s in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, if your land is two miles from a quickly growing town, it’s reasonable to suggest you would have been able to sell it for a large sum to interested developers, were it not for the government taking it from you.

While the highest and best use you propose may not be reality yet, it may be reasonable in light of the broader circumstances. Said another way, just because your property is currently being used for one thing, does not mean it couldn’t reasonably be used for something that makes it more attractive and valuable.

Tip: Value cannot be based on business plans that are not legally possible. For example, a land development plan that otherwise passes the reasonable person standard but conflicts with local zoning laws cannot be the basis of your negotiating stance.


The DOT may owe you more than the current fair market value of your property depending on your intentions for it.

Should I accept GDOT’s first offer?

You should almost never accept the government’s first offer. 

The basis of the government’s offer will be their appraisal of your property. Mistakes can be made. Perhaps more importantly, you want your appraiser to go into the assessment looking for ways the unique variables of your land make it more valuable (after all, an old car is worth less than a new car — unless the old car is a collector’s item).

Each piece of land is unique. Just because your neighbor’s land isn’t worth much doesn’t mean yours isn’t valuable. Imagine you have a lucrative piece of prime real estate. However, you’ve never sold it or developed it in full because you live there, just as your family has for generations. 

The government appraiser might see that this was a residential property for generations and project value based on this. You need someone to point out with hard evidence that there’s a highest and best use that you should be compensated for, even if it’s not the use the property historically had. 

The appraisal process is not an exact science, and the government is not responsible for prioritizing your best interests. So how do you get fair compensation? Once you decline the DOT’s first offer, you will need to go on the offensive to demonstrate the additional value of your property that the government’s appraiser may have missed.

We front all costs & guarantee you'll pay nothing if we don't get you more than the government's offer.

How do I prove the worth of my property? 

You prove your property’s worth through the use of appraisals and other expert valuations. 

The Cost Approach

An appraiser will typically use one of three methods to determine the value of your property.

  1. The first is to determine the sales price of similar properties to get an idea for what your property would go for on the open market. As discussed, however, each property is unique, so a comparison approach can be tricky. Other properties might not have been sold with their highest and best use being leveraged.
  2. If the property is an income-generating property, the comparative approach won’t work. In this situation, an appraisal might be based primarily on what an investor could earn from the property.
  3. A third common approach is the cost approach, which is a bit of a hybrid. The land part of your property is valued based on the comparative sales approach. Then, the current value of improvements on the land (like the building of a house) are calculated and added to the land valuation.

As you can see, this is very subjective and delicate work, and not all appraisers are created equally. 

Tip: Improvements to your home are unlikely to net you additional compensation from the DOT. In most cases, the DOT will knock down your house anyway.

Drawing on experts 

As part of investigating the highest and best use of your land, expert insight will often be needed, including from: 

  • Brokers 
  • Land planners
  • Civil engineers 
  • Real estate agents
  • Surveyors 
  • Environmentalists
  • And more 

Your lawyer can call on a network of experts to try and build a surefire case for maximum compensation.

How and when do I get paid eminent domain settlement compensation?

When the government takes ownership of your property, they may deposit what they consider to be just compensation with the court. It may be possible for you to withdraw that money immediately, but the money will not be sent to you automatically. You must complete the proper paperwork and processes with the court to withdraw the funds – while still retaining your right to negotiate for more compensation. 

Each county is different when it comes to deposits and getting paid out for eminent domain. Having your attorney jump through the hoops on your behalf to retrieve your money without waiving your claim is one great reason to hire one. A case evaluation from one of our attorneys is completely free and can provide clarity on your case.

Note: Any liens on the property will need to be dealt with from the just compensation deposit first. 

The DOT has a rough timeline of when it will take ownership of your property, but you don’t need a lawyer to tell you that construction projects often hit many delays. In addition, every client, case, and property are unique, and the timeline for a nearby property may not apply to you. For a large project, the DOT may condemn properties in timed chunks that make sense to them. Funding roadblocks may also impact a project or your particular property. 

It can be frustrating to have your life put on hold when the DOT announces a project, only to be faced with an indefinite wait until you receive your payment. If an agreement can be reached before the government officially condemns your property, you may receive your money fairly quickly after the deal is signed.

Naturally, with government bureaucracy, it may take longer than expected. If you and the government are far apart, however, an agreement is unlikely and you may have to wait months or even years until the property is officially condemned and your attorney can litigate your case.

Deadline Alert! In Georgia, you only have 30 days to file an answer to the government’s offer of compensation. If you don’t file in this window, there’s a real possibility you’ll forever lose the chance to negotiate for more compensation.

What do I do if there’s been a taking of my property without just compensation by the government?

If the government effectively takes your property but doesn’t provide any compensation, this is what’s called an inverse condemnation. Even if you can still remain on your property, but something the DOT did severely reduced the value of your property, you are likely entitled to compensation. 

For example, the government may be doing construction up the road from you. While your property itself isn’t directly affected, it may now be virtually impossible for customers to reach your business. Unfortunately, sometimes the DOT fails to consider everyone who might be affected by their actions. 

You may have never been officially condemned and thus never offered just compensation by the DOT. Normally, the DOT would initiate a condemnation lawsuit against you. If they neglect to do this, you have to initiate a lawsuit to notify them they’ve effectively condemned your property and owe you compensation. 

How can an attorney help maximize the amount of money I can get for my land?

By using their experience on your behalf, advancing the costs for experts, and keeping your best interests always at the forefront.

Experience and effort can make the difference: It’s important to note that eminent domain appraisals aren’t like regular appraisals. They can run up to a hundred pages long. You have to scour that for errors and you have to see where the government’s appraiser failed to consider the highest and best use of your land. To do that, you need time, knowledge, and experience. That’s exactly what your attorney brings to the table.

Advancing costs to build your case: Even if you have a sense of what the highest and best use of your land is, you need to prove it. That frequently means experts, which means money. When you work with our eminent domain firm, we advance those costs for you and you pay nothing at all upfront. If we’re unable to increase the government’s initial offer to you, you pay us nothing at all, period. In this way, money is not a barrier to building your case and trying to get the full compensation you may be entitled to.2

An attorney to watch your back: Put simply, the DOT isn’t looking for what your property could be worth. You have to show them with the help of an experienced eminent domain attorney. At the very least, you want your attorney to review the government’s appraisal of your property, in order to point out important features that could be missed. 

Family of three on the lawn in front of their house.
Almost 10x More for Lost Residential Property Value

We demonstrated that there were significant damages to a family’s remaining home and site after a residential strip taking.

Our client was heavily compensated for the lost value of the residential property.1

Smiling car mechanic.
3x Initial Offer for Whole Business Loss Compensation

We negotiated a new access lane so that a mechanic shop owner could stay in business in spite of parking loss due to DOT construction.

Our client received compensation for the taking and got to keep the building.1

White house with dark roof and a tree in front.
Almost 3x More in Compensation for Residential Property

We utilized experts to argue that the “highest and best use” of a residential property was potentially as a commercial development.

Our clients received $821,000 more than the DOT’s initial offer.1

Disability parking spot.
Medical Center Saved, Compensation Paid

We prevented the closure of a medical center by recreating parking on adjacent property.

Our client, who owned the land, was able to keep both the tenant and the total business loss settlement funds.1

Why should you choose the Georgia Eminent Domain Law Firm?

We have inside experience that we use to fight on behalf of property owners, never the government. Four of our attorneys used to work for a state DOT, but grew tired of watching deserving property owners leave money they needed on the negotiating table. When you’re going up against a state DOT, having attorneys who used to represent them and understand their priorities and processes can be a significant advantage. 

Our attorneys have over 90 years of combined experience. We know how to navigate the nuances of the law and try to leave no stone unturned in leveraging your property’s full worth in your battle for compensation. Since our firm began, we’ve successfully tripled the DOT’s initial offers on average.1

Our “Second Check” guarantee means we assume the risk on your behalf 

When the government condemns your property, they will deposit their estimate of just compensation with the court for you. That is what we call the first check in the eminent domain process. Even if you hire us very early in the process to deal with everything on your behalf, there is no attorney’s fee for us to collect that money. In other words, while we start watching your back right away, we don’t touch your first check except to retrieve it for you. 

Next, we start our fight for a second check, seeking additional compensation from the government for the highest and best use of your land. We advance all the costs that may be necessary, but you don’t have to pay for any of that up front. It’s called a contingency fee. If we are successful in increasing your offer, the first check is still yours in full. You only pay any attorney’s fee from the extra money.2

Don’t leave your money on the table. Take on the government with the Georgia Eminent Domain Law Firm on your side. Submit your contact form and someone will be in touch soon, or call 1-888-391-1339 right now.

Get a free case
evaluation today.

There are only a handful of attorneys in GA who practice eminent domain exclusively. And even fewer with DOT experience. That’s why it’s always worth it to get a free case evaluation.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell us about your situation.

2) We research your property as needed, using DOT maps, our own technology, and experience to see the exact effects.

3) We let you know what we think a fair offer would be. This evaluation is free, and there’s no
pressure or obligation to hire us after.

But please don’t wait to act. Waiting can hurt your case, and the cost is the same: free.

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