You’ve heard the jingle where a certain insurance company claims to be “on your side.” Even if they don’t say it, every insurance company wants you to believe that they are on your side: they’ll handle your claims quickly, provide top-notch customer service, and will be there whenever you need them, day or night. That may all be true if you’re paying the premiums, but sadly this is not the case if you are injured in an accident and have to make a claim against someone else’s insurance. A recent case out of Columbus, Georgia demonstrates exactly how difficult insurance companies can be when settling claims.
Jury Finds Geico Acted in Bad Faith
The case discussed in the article involves a man who was injured while riding his bicycle in 2012 when he was struck by a vehicle. The driver was clearly at fault, and the victim did not have health insurance. The victim’s attorney offered to settle the matter for $30,000, which was the limit of the policy. Regardless of the driver’s obvious fault, Geico, who insured the driver, refused to settle the case for more than $12,000, just slightly more than the victim’s hospital bills. When the victim sued, he wound up with a default judgment because neither Geico nor the driver responded to the suit. Geico then tried to get the default judgment set aside, and later objected to the driver’s subsequent bankruptcy proceedings. When the case made it to Federal court, the jury awarded the victim $2.7 million dollars in damages, finding that Geico had acted in bad faith in refusing to settle the claim.
What is Bad Faith?
“Bad faith” refers to when an insurance company acts in an unreasonable matter when handling claims. This obviously includes refusing to accept a reasonable settlement offer or demanding settlement in an amount far less than the claim is worth. However, bad faith also includes being unreasonable in how the insurance company handles the claim. In the case above, Geico not only demanded settlement in an unreasonable amount, but they were also unnecessarily adversarial and uncooperative throughout the process.
What to do if You’ve Been in an Accident
Bad faith is just one of the reasons you should be extremely careful in dealing with the other party’s insurance company. If you’ve been injured in an accident, here are some tips you should keep in mind:
- You are not obligated to talk to the other party’s insurance company.
- You do not have to tell them that you were injured, or the nature and extent of your injuries.
- You should not tell them who you think was at fault or your theory of what happened. Do not admit fault for anything, even if you think it was obvious or it isn’t important.
- They will offer you a quick settlement – you are not obligated to accept it, and it likely is for less than your claim is worth.
Contact a Georgia Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured in an accident, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney. The lawyers at Slappey & Sadd have been helping accident victims in Georgia since 1992. We handle communication with insurance companies day in and day out, and we know how to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us at 404-255-6677 or email us via our online contact form in order to schedule a free consultation today.