Sometimes insurance companies don't settle claims when they're supposed to. Under Georgia Law, if an insurance company does not pay a claim it is legally required to pay, a claimant can recover a myriad of damages from the insurance company directly. This is one of the only times you can sue the insurance company directly in Georgia. It also often requires that the claimant have a skilled attorney to help with these types of claims so that a car wreck, a fire, a trucking accident, or serious loss of life or property doesn't result in the claimant settling for merely the policy limits. These bad faith provisions apply not only to the insurance company for the at-fault party, but also to any uninsured motorist coverage that you may have available on your own policy.
Bad faith remedies are available where an insured makes a claim under a policy and the insurer in bad faith fails to pay within 60 days of a written demand. Mere failure to pay is not bad faith. However, if an insurer's refusal to pay is found by a jury to be in bad faith, the insurance company must pay 1) the proceeds due on the policy, 2) penalties, and 3) attorney's fees as written in O.C.G.A. section 33-4-6.
These remedies are available not only for personal injury loss, but also for property damages payable under a motor vehicle policy for which an insured is liable. The insurance company is entitled to notice and procedural requirements, which must be provided before a claim can be made for bad faith. But to avoid bad faith penalties, the insurance company must make a good faith effort to settle a property damage claim where the liability of an at-fault party is reasonably clear.
The penalties available in O.C.G.A. sections 33-4-6 and 33-4-7 are the exclusive remedies for an insurance company's bad faith refusal to pay proceeds under an automobile liability policy in Georgia. It is essential that you have an attorney represent you with these cases so that your rights to recover all that the insurance is supposed to pay is not compromised.
Sign up to receive a 3-part series of useful information and advice about personal injury law.