While it’s always smart to approach a customer service relationship positively and politely, it’s also worth remembering that insurance companies don’t have much of an incentive to process your claim quickly and fairly.
This is challenging enough when you’re dealing with an at-fault driver’s insurance company, but it’s even more frustrating when it’s your own insurer—the same company you chose, you paid monthly bills to, and whose coverage you now need for your car or home.
Fortunately, Georgia law doesn’t allow insurers to string customers along indefinitely. If you believe the insurance company is stalling, you may have recourse to collect the settlement you’re due, along with damages and fees, through a bad faith insurance suit.
Why do insurance companies delay?
There are a few reasons why insurance companies delay claims processing:
- They’re waiting on important documents: Sometimes, your insurer simply hasn’t yet received necessary documents, like medical records or the accident report from the police. Do your best to ensure that you don’t cause any delays yourself, sending over accident photos, adjuster reports, medical records, witness contact information and estimates for repairs when you’re asked. Document the time and date you sent records.
- They’re investigating your claim: Don’t take this too personally, as insurers will investigate many claims—even for minor damage—due to the volume of fraud they experience. This should be a quick, efficient process on their end, however.
- They are delaying on purpose: Your insurer has an obligation to work with you, just as you have an obligation to provide them with requested documents. (This is not the case for an at-fault driver’s insurer—more on that later.) If your insurer is acting in bad faith, however, they may try to drag out your claim for so long that the evidence is gone, you give up, or you accept a low, unfair settlement offer.
What are your legal options for insurer delays?
Fortunately, in Georgia, the law does support you in combating bad faith insurance practices. After they’ve received your proof of loss form, they have 60 days to accept or deny your claim. Once they’ve made a final decision, they have 10 days to send you payment. If they fail to do this, they face potential penalties including payment of any attorney’s fees you incur and a penalty of up to half the value of your claim in addition to having to pay your claim in full.
If your insurer is dragging its feet, you may wish to speak with an attorney who can encourage them to meet their responsibilities to you. Often, claims that have dragged on are quickly resolved with a fair settlement once an attorney intervenes. If the insurer continues to stall, you may work with an attorney to file a bad faith suit, holding your insurer responsible for not only your settlement, but your legal fees and damages as well. You can collect more than the policy limits in a bad faith insurance suit.
When dealing with your insurer, practice patience as best you can. Insurers count on customers becoming frustrated or hopeless and settling for less. If you stay on top of what’s needed on your end, document your interactions and reach out to an attorney if things still aren’t progressing, you have a better chance of getting the compensation you deserve. Remember, too, that if you’re dealing with any insurance company, whether the at-fault driver’s insurance company or your own, be careful what you share with them. You are a claimant and they make money by not paying claims, and they will look for reasons to deny responsibility. If you were injured, you’ll want a personal injury attorney to handle your communications with the at-fault driver’s insurer. We advise our clients to never talk to any insurance company after a car wreck except to discuss property damage unless an attorney is present. Any discussion of your injuries or who caused the wreck should be done with your attorney present.
Remember, too, that if you’re dealing with an at-fault driver’s insurance company, be careful what you share with them. You are not their customer, and they will look for reasons to deny fault. If you were injured, you’ll want a personal injury attorney to handle your communications with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
Contact an Experienced Insurance Bad Faith Attorney at The King Firm
Attorney J.L. King, II is a former insurance defense lawyer. He has the benefit of an insider’s perspective on bad faith claims. If you believe your insurer is delaying your claim or treating you unfairly, contact The King Firm at 229-515-8585 for a free case consultation.