A recent decision from the Georgia Supreme Court has clarified when an insurance company may be held liable for engaging in a bad faith denial of claims. The case arose from a multiple-vehicle accident that injured five people. Two of the victims, Julie An and her minor daughter Jina Hong, suffered very serious injuries and brought a claim against the man who caused the accident and his insurance company. Ms. An and her daughter attempted to settle the case for amounts within the policy limits but were unsuccessful. They proceeded to trial where they were awarded $5.3 million in compensation for their injuries. Once that judgment was entered, the original insured (who had caused the accident and had since died) sued the insurance company asserting that it had acted in bad faith for not settling the claim.
What is Bad Faith?
We’ve written about bad faith before, but it may be helpful to revisit the topic. An insurance company acts in bad faith whenever it refuses to honor the contractual obligations of the insurance policy. Bad faith occurs whenever the insurance company unreasonably refuses to pay a legitimate claim or there are unreasonable delays in how it handles the claim.