Articles Tagged with insurance

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make following a serious accident is to not contact a lawyer. In some cases, the negligent party who caused the accident will try and convince the victim that it is unnecessary to speak with an attorney. The negligent party may even make promises to “take care of” the victim’s damages without the need for them to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Golden Isles Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Lowie

Unfortunately, such promises may be nothing more than a delaying tactic. The negligent party may simply be trying to keep the victim from filing a claim until it is too late–i.e., after the statute of limitations has expired.

Most personal injury claims arising from an auto accident are paid via a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. What happens when the insurer refuses to settle and the injured parties successfully sue the negligent driver for damages? In such scenarios, the driver may be able to sue the insurer for its “bad faith” refusal to settle the personal injury claim in the first place.

First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes

When does an insurance company’s “duty to settle” actually arise? Does the insurer have to wait for the injured victims to file a lawsuit? Or should the insurer reasonably anticipate when such a lawsuit is likely to occur? The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed both of those questions.

All Georgia employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who are injured in the course of their employment. For example, if you are in a car accident while driving a company-owned vehicle to make a sales call, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

What happens when your employer’s insurance company is insolvent, i.e., it cannot pay out your claim? In that case, the Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool takes over. This is a nonprofit entity that effectively steps into the shoes of the insolvent insurer and pays any outstanding workers’ compensation claims.

Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Dubose

Following a car accident, you may receive certain benefits from your own insurance company. If you later end up suing a negligent third party for damages related to the accident, your insurer may have the right to recover part of any money you receive from the case. To put it another way, you may not be allowed to recover twice for the same injury–once from your insurance company, and then again from the negligent driver in court.

Appling v. State Farm Fire and Casualty

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Appling v. State Farm Fire & Casualty, offers a helpful example. In 2013, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company agreed to settle with the plaintiff for the limits of the policy, which was $25,000. As this was not enough to compensate the plaintiff for his total injuries, he then filed a claim with his own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) carrier, which was State Farm.

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;

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.

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

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.

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.

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.