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Insurance Company Liable for Jury Award Exceeding Coverage in Georgia Car Accident Case

In order to recover money damages for injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death following an Atlanta car accident, the claimant must be able to prove that the defendant owed the claimant a particular duty, that the duty was breached, that the claimant suffered some type of damage, and that there was a link of causation between the breach of duty and the damage suffered by the claimant.

If all of these elements of negligence can be proven, the claimant may be able to recover substantial compensation. Typically, this compensation is paid by the negligent party’s liability insurance company, which has a duty to negotiate claims in good faith. But what happens when an insurance company and a claimant have drastically different opinions as to the value of a particular claim? A recent case illustrates what can happen when an insurance company “lowballs” a settlement offer, and the claimant goes on to recover a seven-figure jury verdict.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a man who allegedly caused a five-vehicle collision in 2008. The plaintiff’s decedent was killed in the accident, and at least two others were seriously injured. One of those who was hurt was a minor child, whose injuries included a traumatic brain injury. A jury awarded the minor child $5.3 million for his injuries.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant insurance company, asking the trial court to hold it liable for negligently, or in bad faith, failing to settle the claim filed by the minor and his parent against the decedent. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant on all claims.

Decision of the Court of Appeals of Georgia

The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. While the court agreed that the trial court had properly denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, the court did not agree that the insurance company was entitled to summary judgment in its favor. According to the court, the record contained evidence to the effect that there may been a time-limited settlement offer, and there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the insurance company acted reasonably in responding to that offer.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this case is sent back to the trial court for further proceedings. Typically, an insurance company is only responsible for paying an amount up to an insured’s policy limits, but that general rule does not necessarily apply when a court determines that a case could have been settled within the policy limits, but an insurance company acted improperly in settlement negotiations. In such cases, an insured who is hit with a jury verdict that exceeds his or her policy limits may be able to have at least a portion of that judgment paid by the insurance company.

Contact an Experienced Atlanta Car Accident Attorney

If you have questions about filing a claim seeking compensation for injuries suffered due to another person’s negligence, or if your family has lost a loved one and has questions about filing a possible wrongful death case, the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC in Atlanta will be glad to talk to you about your case. Call us at 678-605-9109 to schedule a free consultation regarding your Atlanta car accident, personal injury, or workers’ compensation case.