Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Gwinnett County, he handles serious injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.
Insurance companies in motor vehicle claims in the State of Georgia are required by statute to negotiate in good faith. This statute, O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1, applies only to personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle. Essentially, if the insurance company does not settle a claim for damages in good faith in a motor vehicle accident case when the damages are above policy limits, the insurer can be held liable for bad faith damages above policy limits. This statute codifies a Georgia Supreme Court case, Southern General Ins. Co. v. Holt, 262 Ga. 267, 416 S.E.2d 274 (1992), for motor vehicle accident cases only.
The statute is very specific and requires strict compliance to trigger potential bad faith damages. A plaintiff must make a written demand that is prepared by or with the assistance of an attorney. That demand must contain every one of the following elements:
(1) it must spell out the time period within which the offer to settle must be accepted, and has to give the insurance company at a minimum 30 days from when the insurance company receives the offer to accept;
(2) it must include the amount of monetary payment that is demanded;
(3) it must state the party or parties the claimant or claimants will release if such offer is accepted;
(4) it must state the type of release, if any, the claimant or claimants will provide to each releasee; and
(5) it must state the claims to be released.
Further, O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1 subsection (b) allows the insurance company to accept the offer to settle made by the plaintiff/claimant by providing written acceptance of the material terms in their entirety. The statute, O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1, also allows for the parties to reach a different settlement that is agreeable to the parties. When the insurance company receives the demand it has the right under the statute to seek clarification regarding terms, liens, subrogation claims, standing to release claims, medical bills, medical records, and other relevant facts. Additionally, an attempt to seek reasonable clarification of the demand is not deemed a counteroffer. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1 further requires that an offer to settle made pursuant to the statute must be sent by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested, and shall specifically reference the code section.
The statute allows the insurance company to make payment person or entity providing payment to satisfy an accepted demand by (1) Cash; (2) Money order; (3) Wire transfer; (4) A cashier's check issued by a bank or other financial institution; (5) A draft or bank check issued by an insurance company; or (6) Electronic funds transfer or other method of electronic payment. If the plaintiff/claimant demands payment within a specified time period following acceptance (remember, the plaintiff must give at least 30 days from receipt of the demand for the insurance company to accept) it must give at a minimum ten days after the written acceptance of the offer to settle.
Again, it cannot be emphasized enough that this statute must be strictly complied with by the plaintiff's attorney. Failure to follow each requirement can result in the loss of the ability to recover damages above policy limits. These types of demands are generally used by plaintiff's attorneys only when appropriate, but they can be of utmost importance as a tactic to get full recovery from an insurance company that refuses to settle a motor vehicle accident claim in good faith.
If you or a loved one have suffered personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle and you would like to speak with an attorney contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.
The information above is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.