Insurance permeates your personal injury case in a lot of different ways. Understanding how different kinds of insurance can effect your case helps you understand why we are discussing certain decisions as well as gives you an appreciation for what we are doing behind the scenes for you. Part of how we earn our contingency fee is by locating, investigating, and negotiating with insurance companies. One of the first things we do is investigate sources for insurance coverage so that we can evaluate some of our choices in terms of your claim’s strategy. The following are the different types of insurance and the issues each presents in a typical Georgia personal injury case.
- At Fault’s Car Insurance - Driver’s are required to have liability insurance in Georgia. If you are injured there should be a state required minimum of $25,000 available.
- Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage - Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is part of your coverage. Find out what it means, whether you can access it, and why you don’t have enough.
- Health Insurance & Car Accidents - There are various kinds of insurance that can help you with medical bills. Each though has an effect on your net settlement amount.
- Medical Payments (MedPay) Coverage - Medical Payments coverage is part of your car insurance policy. There are different ways to use it to maximize your settlement.
Insurance Companies and Car Accidents
Insurance companies work with, and to some extent control, the defendant and the defendant’s defense attorney.
Every insurance policy in Georgia, be it a car, homeowner’s, or commercial policy, has a provision that says the insurance company will pay for a defense attorney on its insured’s (i.e. the defendant) behalf. So once someone is sued and notifies their insurance company, that insurance company will assign an Atlanta defense attorney to the case. Defense firms, and they are well known in Atlanta because these firms do nothing but defense, are called “insurance defense” attorneys. The defense attorney will bill the insurance company by the hour for their work or sometimes take a flat fee. There can also be a pretty big conflict of interest because sometimes what is in a defendant’s best interests is not in the insurance company’s best interests, or vice versa. Needless to say, this financial arrangement makes for some interesting strategies in terms of how a plaintiff attorney can play litigation strategy.
The insurance company will also pay, or indemnify any settlement or verdict up to its policy limit for its insured so long as the “occurrence” is an insurable event under the Georgia policy. So 9 times out of 10, making a personal injury claim against the person that hurt you will not result in any great financial harm to the defendant because the insurance money will step in and cover it. And even in those times where a verdict goes over the policy limits, if we gave the insurance company the opportunity to settle for or under those policy limits, then we can go after the insurance company for the excess verdict instead of the defendant using Georgia case law. This is because the insurance company acted in “bad faith” by not protecting its insured by settling the case when it had the chance.
It used to be that adjusters for insurance companies relied on their knowledge and experience to figure out what a case was worth to settle. Those days are long gone. Now most of the major insurers use software to adjust claims and to tie the adjuster into a range of settlement values. The major software systems currently in use are: Colossus, Claims Outcome Advisor, Injury Claims Evaluations, and InjuryIQ.
These software systems use checklists and questionnaires to prompt the adjuster to enter data about a claim. There are approximately 600 injury codes and over 10,000 factors the software take into account. That is why you will notice that when we do a pre-suit settlement package on your behalf, we spend a lot of time breaking out the “data” of your claim. We want to make the adjuster’s job easy and at the same time make sure they don’t miss any data points by giving them these value drivers in an easily comprehensible way. If you have any questions about how insurance companies can impact your accident claim, don't hesitate to contact our firm.