After you’ve purchased and paid for an auto insurance policy, what can you do if you file an auto insurance claim and that claim is unfairly denied?
Georgia state law offers considerable protection to auto insurance policyholders and to third parties who may also be covered by some auto insurance company’s policies.
If an auto insurance company fails to satisfy its responsibility to you – if you are victimized or targeted by “insurance bad faith” – an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney can help.
WHAT IS INSURANCE BAD FAITH?
When an auto insurance company sells you a policy, the company assumes particular duties, including a general overall duty to continue to do business with you in good faith.
When you file a claim, an auto insurance company’s bad faith practices may include:
1. failing to investigate the accident promptly and thoroughly
2. delaying action on your claim by always asking for more details
3. denying your claim or offering you only a fraction of what it’s worth
4. offering inadequate or transparently false reasons for denying your claim
Insurance bad faith may also include an insurance company’s failure to defend policyholders against lawsuits (failure to indemnify) and “general” negligence on the part of an agent or broker.
HOW CAN AN ATTORNEY HELP YOU?
An insurance attorney can determine if an insurance company’s behavior meets the legal definition of bad faith and if you have the legal standing to file a lawsuit.
Sometimes hiring an attorney – and proving that you won’t be bullied – is enough to persuade the company to meet its responsibility to you. That’s the best-case scenario.
In this state, most insurance bad faith cases are settled out of court. The attorneys for both sides are usually able to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to both sides.
If your bad faith lawsuit goes to trial, and if you prevail at trial, a Georgia court will compel the insurance company not only to compensate you fairly but also to pay for your attorney fees.
WHAT IS AN INSURANCE COMPANY’S OBLIGATION?
Automobile insurance companies are obligated to do business in good faith with every claimant, whether you are a policyholder or you are an injured third party seeking compensation.
Especially if you are healing from a severe or catastrophic injury, you cannot allow unethical insurance practices to victimize you again.
When insurance companies delay taking action on a claim or deny a claim entirely, it can mean genuine financial hardship for too many victims of negligence.
And you can’t allow medical bills to pile up while you’re injured, missing work, and waiting for a response from an insurance company that isn’t cooperating with you.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT AN ATTORNEY?
If you are injured by negligence in the state of Georgia – by a negligent driver or in any other accident scenario – have your case handled by an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney from the very beginning.
Profits are imperative in business. Profit is the reason why insurance companies exist. However, profits should be earned ethically. No company should be allowed to put profits ahead of the law – or ahead of your health and well-being.
If you have been seriously injured in any kind of accident, forget about handling the claim yourself, and obtain a personal injury lawyer’s advice and services at once.
HOW CAN YOU PROVE BAD FAITH?
How do you and your attorney prove that an insurer is guilty of bad faith? You will be required to present specific, documentable facts.
If you are injured by negligence in any accident, make and keep copies of all of the insurance papers, policies, other documents, and any letters or emails you’ve exchanged with the company.
Make precise notes regarding all discussions with the insurance company. Include details – the time, the date, and the name and title of whomever you speak with at the company.
HOW WILL YOUR ATTORNEY PREPARE A BAD FAITH CASE?
If your bad faith case goes to trial, you and your attorney will have to prove that the denial of your claim was more than a mistake – you will have to prove that the company was either negligent or that its bad faith in your case was intentional.
A knowledgeable insurance lawyer acting on your behalf may request documents from the insurance company regarding your claim. The claims adjuster or other company representatives may be asked for statements or testimony.
In some cases, an attorney representing a bad faith victim may ask an insurance authority to provide expert testimony about insurance industry practices.
When an insurance company has failed to operate in good faith – and when you and your lawyer can prove it – your lawsuit claiming bad faith will probably prevail.
WHAT ARE THE RULES GOVERNING BAD FAITH CASES IN GEORGIA?
In Georgia, consumers may sue if the insurer – in bad faith – fails to pay within sixty days of a written demand. Let an attorney help you with that written demand.
It is imperative for a consumer to understand that the mere failure to pay a claim is not by itself necessarily bad faith.
However, if an insurance company’s refusal to pay is determined by a jury to be in bad faith, in the state of Georgia, the insurance company then must pay:
1. Compensatory damages: the original damages owed as specified by the insurance policy
2. Punitive damages: damages that punish the insurance company for operating in bad faith
3. The plaintiff’s attorney’s fees
Trust and ethics are the core issues in insurance bad faith cases.
Policyholders trust – and pay – their insurance companies to be there when they’re needed. Consumers expect to receive the services they pay for.
WHAT WILL IT COST TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR RIGHTS?
If your auto insurance company treats your claim with bad faith – either negligently or intentionally – get the legal help you need.
Most injury attorneys will review and assess your case for no cost and with no obligation, so it costs you nothing to learn more about your case, your rights, and what the law can do for you.
Bringing a lawsuit against the insurance company may be only one of your options. If you are a consumer in Georgia and a victim of insurance bad faith, you have the right to seek justice and to put the law to work for you.