Every insurance company – including your Georgia auto insurer – has a duty to act in good faith. When you’re involved in an Atlanta car accident, that means the insurer of the at-fault driver(s) is responsible to fairly consider your claim against their insured and refrain from unjustly denying or stalling on payment if it’s warranted. You probably don’t even need an Atlanta personal injury attorney to tell you the other driver’s insurer is going to dredge up any and every legal excuse possible to either you’re your claim or avoid paying as much as deserved. But what about your own auto insurer?
You might question the value of an attorney when negotiating a personal injury settlement with your insurance company. After all, you’re a safe driver, maybe never crashed before and are a longtime customer who faithfully pays premiums promptly. Unfortunately, when you file a Georgia personal injury claim with your auto insurer, all that loyalty and all those years of prompt payment… ends up mattering a whole lot less than one might expect.
As the Atlanta car accident attorneys at Apolinksi & Associates can explain, when you seek payment from your own auto insurer following a crash (usually for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, required by O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11) their agents will probably still play the role of a “good neighbor” who’s “on your side.” Here’s the reality: Each of those agents are part of a well-oiled machine aimed at devaluing your claim however possible. An auto insurer’s loyalty is not to you, but to their bottom line.
How Will an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Help in Settlement Negotiations?
The value of an attorney when negotiating a personal injury settlement with your insurance company is the assurance of fairness. Firstly, you have the benefit of knowing you have a full and fair understanding of your losses (often a more complex determination than one might assume). Secondly, you have a legal team experienced in both Georgia injury and contract law analyzing the fine print of your insurance policy (which, after all, is a contract). Sometimes, this fact alone helps when settling a personal injury claim because agents know upfront you have knowledgeable legal advocates who truly ARE on your side.
Of course, your insurer doesn’t want to get slapped with a bad faith insurance claim. O.C.G.A. § 33-4-6 is the state’s statutory remedy for an insurer who acts in bad faith, which is defined as refusal of an insurer to pay a covered loss within 60 days of a policy holder’s demand.
If a court finds an auto insurer acted in bad faith, the insurer is liable not only for the full amount of that loss but also an additional 50 percent of the value of that loss or $5,000 (whichever is greater) PLUS all reasonable attorney fees to prosecute the bad faith action (which is separate from your car accident claim). When you negotiate a personal injury settlement on your own without a lawyer, your insurer may be banking on the fact that you don’t realize a bad faith claim is an option – or wouldn’t recognize it even if you did.
Examples of bad faith include not just unreasonably denying or delaying a covered loss, but failure to communicate important information to you, failure to investigate the claim, refusal to pay the claim without investigating, offering settlement for substantially less than the claim is worth or refusing to negotiate at all.
A good Atlanta personal injury attorney understands the complexity of car accident claim valuation, is firm in demanding fair payment for your losses and will assert a claim for bad faith where applicable.
Negotiating With Your Own Auto Insurer for UM/UIM Coverage
Georgia is a fault state when it comes to auto insurance. This means that unlike the dozen states that have no-fault auto insurance, Georgia law does not require crash victims to purchase personal injury protection coverage that covers an insured’s initial damages no matter who caused the crash. In other words, if you’re injured in an Atlanta car accident, you’ll go directly to the at-fault driver’s insurer first for compensation.
That may not be your only remedy though, particularly for serious injuries. For Georgia uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage, you’ll file a claim with your own insurer.
O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10 requires all drivers to carry minimum auto insurance, currently in the amounts of 25/50/25. That’s a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for any one person that driver hurts/kills, $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage total for a single crash and $25,000 to cover property damage. Anyone who has ever been in a crash, however, knows $25,000 may not to far if you’re seriously injured. Alternatively, let’s say three people are all hurt in excess of $25,000; they won’t all receive that amount. That’s where underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) comes in.
UIM coverage is pursuant to Georgia law in amounts equal to one’s bodily injury liability coverage. Let’s say you’re injured in a t-bone crash caused by another driver who ran a red light. They have the minimum 25/50/25 coverage. But your losses total $75,000. You would be entitled to receive up to $25,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurer. If you too had an insurance policy for the mandatory minimum amount, you could collect an additional $25,000 in UIM coverage. Or, if you purchased an auto insurance policy with higher limits, you may be entitled to collect the full $50,000 in damages (or whatever your policy limit).
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage works in much the same way, but steps in to cover losses caused by a driver who is uninsured (12 percent of Georgia motorists, per the Insurance Information Institute) or a hit-and-run driver who is not identified.
UM/UIM payments are negotiated with your insurer by proving not only that the other driver was liable but also that they were uninsured/underinsured and that your damages total what you allege. No matter how great of a customer you are, no auto insurer will be eager to pay that. Your attorney will fight to ensure they do. This is the value of an attorney when negotiating a personal injury settlement with your insurer.
Trust the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates to be your advocates in a personal injury claim with your auto insurer.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.