Law students are taught that there are four basic components to a negligence lawsuit: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Theoretically, an Atlanta personal injury claimant who can prove each of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence should be able to recover fair compensation for injuries suffered due to another party's negligence.
That's the theory. In reality, however, unless the defendant has liability insurance - and in an amount sufficient to fully compensate the plaintiff for his or her losses - it can be difficult or impossible to recover fair compensation even if all of the traditional elements of negligence are present.
Facts of the Case
In a recent federal lawsuit, a man was shot in the arm at a gas station in October 2013. He filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owners and lessee of the gas station, seeking to recover compensation for his injuries. The plaintiff entered multiple settlement agreements with the defendants, with the end result being that he had the right to recover up to $1.5 million under a particular insurance policy. Unfortunately, there was a dispute as to whether coverage was available under the policy.
The man then filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, against the defendants, two insurance companies (one was the parent company of the other) and a premium finance company that had allegedly advanced funds to one of the gas station owners to pay the insurance premiums. The defendants sought summary judgment.
Decision of the Federal District Court
The court granted summary judgment to the defendants. Under the agreement between the finance company and the gas station, the finance company advanced the funds to pay the full premium for the insurance policy, but it had a power of attorney to cancel the policy if the insured failed to pay the monthly loan payment within 15 days of the due date. At the request of the finance company, the policy in question had been canceled several months before the shooting due to the insured's failure to make its monthly loan payment.
In ruling on the defendants' motions for summary judgment, the court first found that the cancellation of the policy for nonpayment in June 2013 did not contain certain information required by Georgia law and that thus the policy was wrongfully canceled. However, the court made it clear that the mere fact that the policy was wrongfully canceled did not necessarily mean that the plaintiff would succeed in his declaratory judgment action.
Instead, the court found that Georgia law has a strong stance against implied causes of action and that there was no implied cause of action on the part of a third-party beneficiary of the insurance contract for a finance company's failure to adhere to the requirements of Georgia law with respect to the cancellation of a policy of insurance.
An Experienced Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Now Accepting Appointments
Retaining a seasoned accident or injury attorney to assist with your case can be very helpful in determining whether you have a case and whether it is worth pursuing. To schedule a free consultation with a helpful Atlanta personal injury lawyer, call the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, at 678-894-4758 and ask for an appointment. In most cases, we do not require payment of attorney fees upfront. Instead, we take our fee out of the settlement or judgment when your case concludes.