Category: Personal Injury

Origin of “Holt” Bad Faith, Time-Limit Demands in Georgia

At this point in time, Georgia law favors bad faith claims against insurance companies who fail to reasonably settle personal injury claims. In the current era of tort reform, this is a welcome relief for injury victims.

The favorable law stems from the 1989 case of Holt v. Southern General Insurance Company, SC89CV13484 (Muscogee State Court). In that case, Southern General was successfully sued for negligently failing to timely settle an automobile injury claim.

In Holt, the plaintiff offered to settle her injury claim for the other driver’s $15,000 policy limits with Southern General. Importantly, the offer was good for only 10 days (subsequently five more days were added to the deadline). Southern General never told its policy holder about the proposal and deadline, and did not respond within the time set by the plaintiff.

Three days after the settlement period expired, Southern General offered to pay the policy limit. The plaintiff rejected the proposal as not being timely and sued. Southern General made two more offers before trial to pay the $15,000. The plaintiff again turned Southern General down, saying she would no longer settle for the policy limits.

On July 19, 1988, a jury returned a verdict of $82,000.00 against the responsible driver.  After Southern General paid its policy limits of $15,000, the responsible driver was left personally liable to the plaintiff for $67,078.00 plus 12% interest. The responsible driver assigned her right to the plaintiff to sue Southern General for failure to settle.

 On July 18, 1990, a jury awarded $208,000.00 to the plaintiff, including $100,000.00 in punitive damages. The jury award was upheld by Georgia appellate courts, insuring insurance companies have a duty to exercise due care in settling claims.

Since Holt, our firm has been successfully making time-limit demands on insurance companies. We will continue to use Holt and other strategies to maximize our clients’ recoveries in every case.

On July 1, 2013, a new law will take effect that will modify the use of Holt demands. In our next blog, we will discuss these modifications and the impact they will have on future injury cases.

Landlords’ Responsibility For Injuries to Non-Tenants

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals case examines the issue of a landlord’s liability for injuries to non-tenants. The case, Forsh v. Williams, 321 Ga. App. 556 (2013), involved a non-tenant injured by a tenant’s dogs. Typical injuries include trip and fall, dog bite cases, and assault and battery by a tenant. 

Landlord Negligence

The injured non-tenant alleged a landlord was negligent and reckless in failing to adequately screen his tenants. Failing to enter into an agreement whereby the tenants were not allowed to keep vicious dogs. Failing to adequately inspect the premises. And failing to comply with legal requirements under state and federal law for owners of rental property. The injured party also alleged the landlord failed to keep the premises in repair – as required under OCGA § 44-7-14 – by not installing an appropriate gate on the deck from which the dogs escaped, and failing to install fencing in the yard after knowing of the presence the dogs.

Under Georgia law, to be liable for injuries to third parties, out-of-possession landlords are responsible to third parties for defective construction or failure to keep the premises in repair.

Liability for Injuries to Non-Tenants

OCGA § 44-7-14, entitled “Tort liability of landlord,” provides: “Having fully parted with possession and the right of possession, the landlord is not responsible to third persons for damages resulting from the negligence or illegal use of the premises by the tenant, provided, however, the landlord is responsible for damages arising from defective construction or for damages arising from the failure to keep the premises in repair.”

If the landlord fixes defective construction and keeps the property in repair, the landlord may be immune from claims from non-tenant third parties under OCGA § 44-7-14. However, if the landlord is aware the tenant is creating a hazard. In other words, the injury to the non-tenant is foreseeable to the landlord, a landlord can be held liable. 

Court Ruling

So what did the court of appeals do? The court mainly focused on procedural issues. Reversing the trial court and finding the landlord was not entitled to an outright dismissal early in the litigation. In favor of the landlord, the court ruled against the injured party on her claim under 42 USCS § 1437 et. seq., commonly referred to as Section 8. The injured non-tenant alleged landlord failed to comply with Housing Quality Standards requiring adequate infrastructure to keep the vicious dogs confined either on the deck, in a suitable fence, or otherwise. The Court of Appeals found this federal statute couldn’t be a basis for liability. And the non-tenant’s claim was limited to OCGA § 44-7-14.

If you have any questions about Georgia landlord liability for injuries, please call us at 404-382-9994. We have over twenty years of experience handling these cases.

recorded statement

Car Accident Statements

The insurance company asks for a recorded statement in almost every car accident case. The insurance adjuster will say the insurance company needs or requires a recorded statement to investigate the collision. Beware! This is a trap! You should never voluntarily agree to give such a statement following a car wreck.

In this blog, we consider when and under what circumstances (if any) to give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. One approach (paraphrased from Winston Churchill) is “Never, ever ever ever ever [voluntarily give a recorded statement to an insurance company].”

If your claim for a car accident is against another party’s insurance company (also known as a third-party claim), our policy is never to give a recorded statement. If the claim is against your own insurance company (for example, in an uninsured motorist claim), we are contractually obligated to give a statement to the insurance company describing the collision.

In our experience, the actual (and only) purpose of a recorded statement is for the insurance companies to find reasons to deny the claim or pay less for your injuries. Just like criminal lawyers tell their clients not to say anything (remain silent), the same applies in injury cases. The less said, the better.

As mentioned above, when the other party does not have insurance, and we are making an uninsured motorist claim, we must follow the terms of the insurance policy, which include giving a recorded statement. These are called examinations under oath (EUOs). We spend significant time preparing our clients for the recorded statement in these situations.

If we must give a recorded statement, we request a copy of the recorded statement. We read the following before every recorded statement: “This statement is being given for the sole purpose of providing [name of insurance company] and its adjuster, [name of adjuster], who is acting as an agent of its insured, [name of defendant], with information that may assist them in evaluating and compromising this claim.  This statement is given under OCGA § 24-4-408(b). Everyone agrees that this statement is not evidence, nor is it discoverable or admissible at trial including impeachment, should this claim proceed to litigation.”

If you are ever in a situation where you are being asked to give a recorded statement in an injury case, please consider calling us to discuss your options.

car wreck

Automobile Injuries in Georgia

Throughout Atlanta, hundreds of car accidents occur every day. Our law office, Gomez and Golomb, has helped clients recover damages for automobile injuries caused by collisions since 1994.

Gomez & Golomb Will Maximize Your Automobile Injuries

Many lawyers try to handle automobile injury cases, but, unfortunately, many don’t handle these cases regularly, or only to get minimal settlements, or have paralegals or assistants do all the work. You see these lawyers smiling on billboards throughout town. Our office is different: we work super hard to maximize the recovery in each automobile injury case, whether $5,000 or $five million. Every case we take is equally important to us. And every case is handled by an attorney from start to finish. The insurance companies only offer top dollar for automobile injuries when they know the other side is competent and prepared to fight.

Automobile Injuries are a Big Deal

Being involved in a collision is a life-changing, traumatic experience. Car accidents often occur through no fault of your own. When a four, five, or six thousand pound vehicle hits your vehicle, even a low-impact collision will cause injuries. These include rear-end wrecks, failure to yield, and intersection wrecks. Collisions cause severe and sometimes permanent injuries.

Automobile Injuries Involve Complicated Legal Issues

Car wrecks in Atlanta involve several issues, including insurance laws, overlapping jurisdiction, and other complex legal issues. Correctly interpreting the law and advocating your position is vital to recovering the total amount of damages caused by the automobile accident. Damages for car accidents include property loss, medical costs, lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Their goal, and the way they make profit, is to settle your car collision case for as little as possible. If you hire Gomez & Golomb, you will level the playing field and maximize your settlement.

Call Us!

If an automobile collision causes injuries to you, call us at 404-382-9994 to speak to a lawyer about your case.