Articles Tagged with insurance

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Georgia law creates a mechanism to settle personal injury claims arising from a motor vehicle accident prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Under this law, a settlement offer made by one party to the other must contain the following terms:

  • a time period to accept the offer, which may not be less than 30 days after it is received by the other party;
  • the amount of money to be paid;
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Not all personal injury claims are the result of accidents. There are many situations in which a victim is injured by the deliberate–even criminal–conduct of one or more parties. Victims often face additional legal challenges when seeking compensation for such injuries, in part because many insurance companies will not indemnify the responsible parties against criminal acts.

Capitol Specialty Insurance Corporation v. PTAV, Inc.

A recent decision by a federal judge in Atlanta helps to illustrate this problem. This case involves a Marietta woman–identified in court records only as “P.M.”–who was abducted, robbed, and sexually assaulted multiple times by a group of men. The abduction itself occurred in the parking lot at a commercial center.

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Winning a personal injury judgment following a car accident does not always guarantee that the victim will actually get paid. There are cases in which a defendant who lacks adequate financial resources will file for protection under federal bankruptcy law. This can delay and in some cases defeat collection of a valid personal injury judgment under Georgia law.

For instance, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor’s non-exempt property is liquidated to pay any creditors to the extent possible. The remaining debts may then be “discharged.” This does not mean that the debt itself is void. Rather, a discharge means that the debtor is no longer legally obligated to repay the debt, and the creditor may take no further collection action against that individual. However, if there are multiple parties liable for a judgment, the bankruptcy of one defendant does not affect the enforceability of the judgment against the other, non-bankrupt defendants.

Flanders v. Jackson

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Many Georgia residents take out umbrella policies to provide liability coverage above  and beyond their standard auto insurance. Umbrella policies are especially beneficial to victims who sustain financial losses in excess of the normal car insurance policy. For example, if your injuries following a car accident cost you $500,000 in lost wages and medical expenses, and the other driver’s policy only has a $250,000 limit, an umbrella policy can make up that difference.

Government Employees Insurance Company v. Gordon

Of course, that assumes that the company that issued the umbrella policy does not attempt to disclaim coverage. As we know all too well, insurers will never hesitate to try and avoid paying when they can. Here is a recent federal case involving the application of Georgia law in which a court addressed an insurance company’s attempt to avoid its obligations.

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Ridesharing has become a popular way for many residents of the Atlanta metropolitan area to earn additional income via smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft. Before you sign up to offer rides for money, you should check with your car insurance company. Many standard insurance policies exclude coverage for “public or livery conveyance.” In fact, your existing policy may be canceled if you start offering rides for money without notifying your carrier. If you are in an accident while driving for Uber or Lyft, you may be on the hook for any damages.

Haulers Insurance Co. v. Davenport

What if you are just giving a friend a ride for no payment? Could your insurer declare that you were actually providing a livery service and refuse to cover your accident? According to a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, the answer is probably no.

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One of the recurring questions that arise in personal injury cases is determining who is covered by an auto insurance policy. Since most claims are paid via some form of insurance, whether it is that of the negligent driver or the victim’s own uninsured motorist coverage, it is critical to ascertain from the outset who is and is not covered. Rest assured, the insurance company will make every effort to deny coverage if it has a plausible legal reason to do so.

Stanley v. Government Employees Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed an interesting variant of our recurring question: Does an uninsured motorist (UM) policy cover the fianceé (or common law spouse) of a named insured? The plaintiff in this personal injury case was driving a vehicle owned by his employer when he was the victim of a head-on collision with another driver. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries and sued the other driver for negligence.

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Before initiating any kind of personal injury lawsuit, it is important to gather all of the relevant facts and make sure that you are consistent and truthful in any pretrial statements you make, whether to your own attorney or to the court. Inconsistencies, even if they are honest misunderstandings or lapses in memory, can significantly harm your case. In some circumstances they can even prove fatal to a claim.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Corp. v. Fabrizio

You especially do not want to get caught in an inconsistency when dealing with an insurance company. A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals offers a useful illustration of why not. This ongoing lawsuit started with a 2013 car accident between the plaintiff and another driver. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.

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Dealing with an insurance company following a car accident can be a major hassle. As a result, some accident victims simply put it off. This is almost always a mistake. It is not simply a good idea to notify your insurer of your accident in a timely manner. In many cases, you can be denied coverage when you later file a claim.

Sharpe v. Great Midwest Insurance Company

Here is a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision that illustrates how unforgiving judges can be when it comes to enforcing notification requirements. This case arises from a 2013 truck accident in Statesboro. The plaintiff was driving a vehicle owned by his employer when he was rear-ended by another vehicle. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained a serious neck injury.

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Auto insurance is designed to pay for damages caused by an accident. In many cases an insurer will negotiate a settlement with the injured party. While the insurer is not obligated to pay claims it determines are unsubstantiated, the insurer cannot simply refuse to pay without consequence. Under Georgia law, an insurer can be held liable for “bad faith or negligent refusal to settle a personal claim within the policy limits.”

What does this mean in practice? Say you have a policy that covers $100,000 for bodily injury claims per accident. You are subsequently involved in an accident and are determined to be at fault. The other driver offers to release any potential personal injury claim against you in exchange for the limit of your policy, i.e. $100,000. The insurer refuses to settle. The other driver sues you in court and the jury returns a verdict of $500,000. You could then turn around and sue the insurer for the $400,000 excess you had to pay as a result of its bad faith refusal to settle.

Whiteside v. GEICO Indemnity Company

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Haggling with insurance companies following a car accident is an everyday occurrence for many Georgia motorists. At the end of the day, an insurance policy is a contract, and if the insurer refuses to pay a valid claim, it can be held liable under Georgia law. Specifically, Section 33-4-6 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated states that an auto insurer that rejects a claim “in bad faith” must pay not only for the policyholder’s losses, but also a penalty equal to greater than $5,000 or 50% of the insured party’s total liability.

Stiegel v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company

Could an insurer face liability beyond that provided under Section 33-4-6? According to a recent ruling by a federal judge in Columbus, the answer may be yes. In this case, an accident victim is alleging not just bad faith, but also potential violations of state racketeering laws.