At Carr & Weatherby, we have years of experience representing both insurers and insureds in coverage disputes. Insurance coverage is governed by a unique set of rules and cases. Our balanced approach is especially helpful in the world of insurance disputes, where often many different arguments can be made as to the insurer and insureds obligations under a policy. Because we have worked on both sides of the aisle, our clients can rest assured that the attorneys at Carr & Weatherby understand both an insurer’s obligations under a policy and an insured’s expectations for coverage.
We have represented many large insurance companies with coverage opinions, reservation of rights letters, and declaratory judgment actions. Likewise, we have fought for insureds to have coverage for millions in potential damages. If you suspect that your insurance company has been unfair, dishonest or unreasonable, Carr & Weatherby can assist you in seeking recovery of the expected claim amount as well as punitive or exemplary damages, if applicable. Our experience in the complex field of insurance disputes is on par with any firm in Atlanta and Georgia.
A Brief Overview of Georgia Bad Faith Insurance Laws
There are many rules that are unique to the field of insurance. One of the most frequently disputed issues is whether an insurer has acted in “bad faith.” There are a number of case opinions and statutes that form the basis of so-called “bad faith” action in Georgia.
Perhaps the most oft-cited rule is called a “Holt Demand.” A Holt demand is based on the case S. Gen. Ins. Co. v. Holt, 262 Ga. 267 (1992). In Holt, Southern General’s insured collided with another vehicle and there was clear liability. Southern General immediately paid a property damage claim. Thereafter, the plaintiff’s attorney made a time limited demand that Southern General pay the limits of the insurance policy. Along with the demand, the plaintiff’s attorney submitted medical bills and lost wages which totaled over the policy limits. Southern General failed to respond to the offer within the time frame proposed by the plaintiff.
When the insured was later sued and had a judgment entered against her for an amount that exceeded the policy limits, the insured assigned a claim against Southern General to the alleged injured party for bad faith refusal to settle to the claimants. The claimants brought suit against Southern General, and the Supreme Court held that in this situation the insurance company may be exposed to liability for any amount in excess of the policy limits ultimately awarded against the insured and possibly punitive damages. “An insurance company may be liable for damages to its insured for failing to settle the claim of an injured person where the insurer is guilty of negligence, fraud, or bad faith in failing to compromise the claim.”
Since Holt, there are many cases that expound upon, interpret, and restrict the principles in Holt. There is even a statute, O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1, that requires certain information be included in a Holt demand for automobile accident claims. The case law interpreting 9-11-67.1 is limited at present because the statute was just recently passed in the last several years. This is a heavily litigated area of law, and each case requires an examination by an insurance coverage lawyer to determine which rules are applicable.
There are many other “bad faith” statutes that may be applicable to other insurance claims. For example, there is a statute specific to uninsured motorist claims O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(j) and property damage claims O.C.G.A. § 33-4-7, to name a couple.
This is a field where it is important to have a seasoned attorney review your case to determine if you have a claim. It is very difficult for a lay person, or even an attorney without insurance coverage experience, to navigate this area of the law.