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Insurance law issues can come into play in many different contexts, and firm practitioners have the ability to help clients with all manner of insurance law issues.
For businesses, consultation with counsel is often prudent at the insurance purchasing stage when proposals are being evaluated from multiple insurance providers and cost must be balanced with the scope of coverage being provided. Our attorneys can review complicated policy language and help clients understand the scope and limitations of coverage proposals, a subject which may not be fully disclosed or understood by insurance agents.
For both businesses and individuals, insurance issues arise when losses occur and sources of insurance coverage may not be readily apparent. We can help identify policies that may provide coverage for losses. At other times, the scope of provided coverage is in question. Our lawyers can help analyze whether insurance coverage exists under policies that the client has purchased – so-called first party claims – or whether insurance recoveries may be available from others who may be responsible for losses, known as third party claims. In either context, a proper understanding of insurance law is vital before making strategic decisions about how to best move forward in order to maximize insurance recoveries and minimize losses.
For significant business claims, the assistance of counsel starting early in the claims process is advisable to make sure that the insured complies with technical policy requirements to preserve insurance coverage, and that insurers honor their duty to pay claims or their duty to defend lawsuits filed against their insured.
When insurers wrongfully refuse to pay first party claims, Georgia law provides statutory penalties that can be used to motivate insurers to comply with their policy obligations. When first party coverage disputes with insurers cannot be resolved prior to suit, our attorneys have experience in prosecuting claims against insurers to obtain coverage benefits.
When insurers wrongfully refuse to pay or defend against third party claims, Georgia bad faith law can cause insurers to be responsible for the entire loss regardless of the insurer’s underlying policy limits. This potential penalty means that bad faith law can be sued as potent tool in negotiations with insurers to ensure that third party claims are fairly evaluated by insurers, and that payment is promptly paid when due.
Our attorneys are adept at handling insurance litigation which may arise when insurance companies seek a declaratory judgment from the court that the insurance policy at issue does not provide coverage for a particular loss. Our attorneys have represented both insurers and putative insureds in such litigation which requires a thorough understanding of insurance law and litigation procedure.
When analyzing personal injury claims or losses, there are often multiple policies of insurance that provide coverage to injured parties. This will likely include a mixture of first party coverages and third party insurance policies. Our attorneys are skilled in finding all of the insurance policies that may provide coverage for an injury or loss, and evaluating: how those policies interact with each other; whether policies may be aggregated or “stacked,” and; whether policies provide primary coverage or excess coverage.
Injured parties may also be eligible to recover benefits under their own auto policies when involved in collisions with uninsured or underinsured motorists. Our attorneys have experience in the recovery of uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits and the many technical requirements related thereto. There may be multiple UM polices applicable to any given claim, and the amount payable under each policy may require a complex analysis of the type of UM policy involved and its relation to both liability policies and other UM policies. Statutory penalties are available when insurers wrongfully refuse to pay UM benefits, but the nature of UM claims is such that these claims are often litigated. Consequently, it is imperative that claimants have counsel who is well versed in Georgia UM law.
A related consideration for personal injury and other claimants is defending against claims by first party insurers, including UM and group health insurers, for reimbursement or subrogation where the insurer seeks to have the injured pay back the insurer for benefit payments previously paid on the insured’s behalf when a third party is responsible for the loss. Group health insurers have become increasingly active in pursuing such claims against injured parties, even when the insurer’s claim may not be legally enforceable. Our attorneys will analyze reimbursement or subrogation claims early in the claims process and structure settlements to either avoid such claims or minimize their effect.
Whatever type of insurance policy is in question, we can help. Areas of practice include general liability insurance, automobile insurance, homeowner’s insurance, professional liability insurance, errors and omissions, directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, garage owner’s liability insurance, accident and disability insurance and life insurance. (See our separate web page on title insurance).
David L. Turner has practiced in the area of insurance law throughout his career.