Attempts to Amend UM Bad Faith Penalty Provisions
During the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 303 which provided for the amendment of Georgia’s Uninsured Motorist Act, O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11 to provide for a minimum bad faith penalty of $25,000, regardless of the UM limits, plus attorney’s fees. Of note, the initial version of the bill called for unlimited penalties. The bill did not reach the Senate floor, but will likely be revisited next year. As explained below, the bad faith provisions contained in the current statute provide considerable protection to insureds over and beyond typical breach of contract claims. Uninsured/underinsured motorist claims are a mixed bag of tort and contract claims. A claimant insured must prove an entitlement to a tort recovery against an uninsured/underinsured motorist in order to be able to recover from the UM carrier. However, the claimant insured must also show that the policy is applicable. For instance, sometimes there is an issue as to whether the insured actually qualifies as an insured under the policy. Sometimes there are issues with multiple insurance policies issued by multiple companies as to which companies and policies provide primary coverage. When there is an issue as to whether or not coverage is owed, an insurance company has a contractual right to undertake an investigation, take statements under oath, request certain documents, etc. Often, sixty (60) days does not provide sufficient time period in which to undertake all of these efforts. Nonetheless, if a claimant insured makes a demand […]
My Car, My Business: Navigating Insurance Issues in a Rideshare World
In the last five years, ride share services such as Uber have effectively changed the way that millions of Americans move around in our cities. The advent of nontraditional ride share services as an alternative to traditional taxicabs, however, has created a number of issues regarding insurance coverage in states across the country. Among those issues are policy exclusions for car-for-hire activities, the incentive for ride share drivers to commit insurance fraud, compulsory minimum liability limits, the primacy of any commercial policy over a ride share driver’s liability or collision coverage, and the primary duty to defend the insured. In an effort to address those issues, the Georgia Legislature passed a law that was signed by Governor Deal on May 6, 2015. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2016 as O.C.G.A. § 33-1-24. Ride share services such as Uber and Lyft operate online networks that allow a prospective rider to hail a ride using GPS location services. In order to use a service such as Uber or Lyft, a rider has to create a member account and store payment information. A driver can connect to Uber or Lyft via an online app, and when connected, a driver can see and pick up prospective riders who have requested a ride. Once a driver picks up a rider, the ride share service tracks the route via GPS and automatically bills the rider for the cost of the ride. Generally, any policy of insurance issued in Georgia to the […]
WACHP Announces New Partner
We are pleased to announce that John Alday has been named a partner of the firm.
Jury Determines That Pedestrian Had Already Been Fairly Compensated
In June of 2015, Jonathan Adelman obtained a winning jury verdict on behalf of an underinsured motorist carrier in a Cherokee County case. Plaintiff was a pedestrian when she was struck by a car in a parking lot. Following the accident, plaintiff immediately sought treatment for knee pain and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus. Within two months after the accident, plaintiff underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Plaintiff’s surgeon testified by way of video deposition at trial that the tear and surgery were due to the accident. Plaintiff’s medical expenses were $30,000. The jury returned with a verdict in the amount of $27,000, which was offset to $0 as a result of the pre-trial settlement with the at-fault driver’s liability carrier and the medical payment coverage benefits already paid. Prior to trial, Mr. Adelman’s client had extended a settlement offer in the amount of $20,000. The pre-trial demand was $100,000.
Ashley Rice Obtains Defense Verdict
Ashley Rice of Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout obtained a defense verdict from a Douglas County jury in March, 2015. The defendant admitted that her vehicle rear-ended the plaintiff and pushed it into another vehicle. While the defendant paid a citation for following too closely, she maintained that the plaintiff had already struck the vehicle in front of her before the defendant’s impact. The plaintiff complained of injury at the scene, but sought no further treatment for several days. Thereafter, the plaintiff underwent chiropractic treatment, pain management, physical therapy, and an epidural injection. The plaintiff’s MRI showed a lumbar herniation which she related to the accident. The plaintiff presented approximately $20,000 in healthcare bills, but failed to convince the jury that the subject accident caused her alleged injuries.
Jury Determines Plaintiff’s Previous Settlement Was Too Much
Following a three (3) day trial in December of 2014, a Gwinnett County jury determined that a plaintiff’s previous settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company exceeded the amount of the plaintiff’s actual damages. Thus, Jonathan Adelman’s uninsured motorist insurer client was deemed to have rightfully rejected plaintiff’s policy limits demand. Following a significant highway accident, the plaintiff underwent lumbar fusion surgery. The plaintiff and his doctors claimed that as a result of the accident, the plaintiff required the surgery and incurred special damages well in excess of $1,0000,000. The plaintiff further claimed that he was permanently disabled from working. Prior to trial, the plaintiff contended that he was entitled to recover the full extent of his uninsured/underinsured policy limits, plus attorney’s fees and bad faith penalties. The jury’s verdict, however, was that the plaintiff was not entitled to any recovery, not even the amount offered prior to trial, under the insurance policy.
Seven of our Lawyers Named Georgia Super Lawyers for 2015
As published in Atlanta Magazine, seven of our lawyers have been named Georgia Super Lawyers for 2015. These lawyers are Russell D. Waldon, Jonathan M. Adelman, Trevor G. Hiestand, Daniel C. Prout, Jr., Kimberly A. McNamara, Ashley Rice, and Rakhi McNeill.
WACHP Opens Savannah Office
We are pleased to announce the opening of our Southeast Georgia office in the heart of Historic Downtown Savannah at 100 Bull Street. We are committed to growing our Southeast Georgia practice by striving to make client access and satisfaction top priorities. Please continue to direct all communications to our Atlanta Office.
Adelman and Reardon Published in GDLA’s Quarterly Magazine
Jonathan Adelman and Kevin Reardon published an update on Auto Insurance Liability Law in the Georgia Defense Lawyer publication, Volume XI, Issue II, Summer 20014. Click to view the article: Summer 2014 GDLA Article
Defense Verdict Obtained in Objective Injury Case
After a four day trial and jury deliberations of approximately one hour, Dan Prout and Denise Hoying obtained a defense verdict in the State Court of Cobb County in a disputed liability case. The plaintiff sustained a fractured collar bone in the accident and ultimately underwent surgery. She claimed approximately $48,000 in medical expenses and more than $10,000 in lost wages. After hearing testimony on fault for the accident from both parties, the investigating police officer, the plaintiff’s accident reconstructionist, and an independent witness, the jury determined that the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault for the accident, barring any recovery.