Most people who find themselves involved in a car accident expect a little resistance on the part of insurance companies when attempting to resolve their claim. Insurance companies have a very calculated approach to resolving the injury claims against their insureds. Their goal is always to pay the least amount that is possible to the injured party. A 2007 article written by CNN correspondent, Drew Griffin, highlighted some of the practices utilized by insurance companies where they offer significantly less than the monetary value of the injury case with the hope that the affected party will take less money now instead of receiving a potentially larger award later. This practice is used across the board at large insurance companies and is often referred to as a “walk away settlement offer”. (CNN)
Georgia requires insurance companies doing business in Georgia to act in good faith when handling the injured party’s claim and protecting the interest of their insured. In fact, to the extent that the insurance company representing an insured is found to have acted in bad faith they could be liable for a monetary amount in excess of the original claim made by the plaintiff. Under O.C.G.A.§ 33-4-7, when there is loss because of an injury or destruction of property covered by a motor vehicle liability insurance policy the insurer has an affirmative duty to:
– adjust that loss fairly and promptly
– make a reasonable effort to investigate and evaluate the claim
– and where liability is reasonably clear, to make a good faith effort to settle with the claimant.
Under this statute any insurer who breaches this duty may be liable to pay the claimant, in addition to the loss, not more than 50% of the liability of the insured for the loss or $5,000, whichever is greater. An insurer acts in bad faith under this code section when, after investigation of the claim, liability has become reasonably clear and the insurer in bad faith offers less then the amount reasonably owed. (O.C.G.A.§ 33-4-7) In reviewing a claim of bad faith against an insurance company the court will typically determine whether the insurance company acted reasonably in responding to a settlement offer. In other words, the insurer must give the insured’s interests the same consideration that it gives its own. Fortner v. Grange Mutual Casualty Company, 294 Ga. App. 671 (2008)
Bad faith insurance claims have restrictions limiting the amount of time an injured party has to bring their action against the insurance company. Therefore, if the insured’s insurance company has been dealing with your claim in bad faith it is important to contact a Douglasville Personal Injury Lawyer to have your case evaluated and your claim preserved.