Insurance is supposed to prevent you from breaking the bank if you are in an accident or experience a loss. By definition, you only deal with your insurance company when you are already dealing with something serious, like a car accident or house fire. The last thing that you want is for your insurance company to give you the runaround.
Unfortunately, sometimes that is exactly what happens. When your insurance company refuses to pay, make them pay. Contact an Atlanta car accident lawyer today to learn your options against your insurance company.
Insurance Bad Faith
When you make a contract with someone, and they do not uphold their end of the bargain, you can sue them for breach of contract. However, you cannot normally sue them for more than the value of the contract. However, every state government has determined that insurance companies need to face more consequences for their breaches of insurance contracts.
This is why we have insurance bad faith claims. When your insurance company denies coverage in a wrongful and unreasonable manner, you can sue them, not only for breach of contract but for bad faith.
What Damages Are Available in Insurance Bad Faith Claims?
In an insurance bad faith claim in Georgia, there are damages that are set by law. If you are able to prove that your insurance company denied your insurance claim in bad faith, you are entitled to damages that are worth more than the amount of your claim. These damages are:
- The amount of your claim;
- Plus 50% of the amount of your claim, or $5,000, whichever is more;
- Your attorney’s fees and the cost of bringing the lawsuit.
For example, if your insurance claim was worth $50,000, and your insurance company denied it in bad faith, you can sue them for insurance bad faith, and receive damages of up to $75,000, plus the amount that you had to pay your Atlanta car accident attorney. Insurance companies are well aware of the risk they face of paying substantial damages and are less likely to deny insurance claims wrongly.
What Are the Elements of a Bad Faith Insurance Claim?
To make an insurance bad faith claim you need to prove three elements: (1) your claim is covered by your policy, and thus, the insurance company’s denial was wrongful; (2) the insurer failed to pay you within a period of 60 days after your demand for such payment; and (3) the insurance company’s failure to pay was motivated by bad faith.
“Bad faith” means that your insurance company’s failure to pay you was completely without foundation or justification. For example, you must show that your insurance company’s stated reason for denying your claim was without merit. Your Atlanta car accident lawyer can help you argue to the court that your insurance company’s denial was in bad faith.
What Are Some Common Examples of Bad Faith?
An insurance company’s bad faith typically occurs in one of five different common ways. The five most common ways by which an insurance company typically acts in bad faith are
- Very low settlement offers– this is when your insurance company offers you way less money than your claim is actually worth, regardless of their reason for doing so. Even though this is not a complete denial of your claim, it is still bad faith.
- Delays– This is when your insurance company attempts to drag its feet while paying you. Georgia law imposes a strict 60-day deadline for your insurance company to pay you for this exact reason.
- Denials of Coverage– This is the most obvious situation. This is when your insurance company simply does not pay out for your insurance claim.
- Failing to Investigate Your Claim- Insurance companies can only deny your claim if they did a thorough investigation and then denied your claim for a specific reason that they found during the investigation. If your insurance company does not do this, they are almost certain to be found to have acted in bad faith.
- Failing to Defend You- On the other side of the spectrum, when you are responsible for an accident and are sued, your insurance company typically has a duty to provide you with lawyers to defend you. If your insurance company fails to do this, they can be sued for insurance bad faith.
If any of these common situations apply to you, or if you think that your insurance company was in bad faith in another way, you should contact an Atlanta car accident lawyer.
Can My Insurer Ever Deny Coverage?
There are situations under which your insurance company can deny your insurance claim without being in bad faith. These situations involve specific facts that the insurance company must point to in order to deny your claim. For example, if you make an insurance claim that is simply not covered, such as trying to claim a car accident on your homeowner’s insurance, your insurance company can refuse to pay.
Another example of when your insurance company can deny coverage is if you lie to them about the circumstances of your accident or loss. This is why it is important to tell your insurance company the truth.
Finally, your insurance company might deny your claim based on an exclusion. An exclusion is a specific provision in your insurance policy contract under which your insurance company does not have to pay your damages. A common example is if you were in a car accident while driving drunk.
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer
If your insurance company thinks they can take you for a fool, you should make them sorry by hitting them where it hurts: their bottom line. If your insurance company acts in bad faith, you need the assistance of a skilled and professional Atlanta car accident lawyer that will help you get the money you deserve.
You pay insurance premiums; you deserve for your insurance company to make good on their promises. Contact an Atlanta car accident lawyer today for a free consultation and case review.