Insurance companies usually try to pay as little as possible to settle injury claims and lawsuits. If you have been injured on someone else's property in Georgia, it is very likely that you will have to deal with an insurance company--the property or business owner's insurance, your insurance, or both.
Without an aggressive and experienced attorney who is willing to stand up to the insurance companies, it can be difficult to receive the fair compensation you are due for your injuries.
Who Pays for Injuries that Occur on Someone Else's Property?
If you have been injured on someone else's property, you likely have medical expenses. You may have missed work due to the injury, and you may be worried about making ends meet. If the negligence of a property owner, business owner, or government entity caused your injuries, who pays for these expenses?
If the property or business owner has liability insurance (and many of them do), their insurance company covers damages that may be awarded in a premises liability lawsuit. Damages in a successful premises liability lawsuit can include medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for things like pain and suffering, reduced quality of life, and mental anguish.
Even if, however, a property or business owner was responsible for your injuries, the responsible party's insurance likely won't pay until your case is resolved. A premises liability case may take several months or longer to resolve. Therefore, you will need to cover your medical expenses out-of-pocket or through your own health insurance while your case is in progress.
What Your Insurance Will—and Will Not—Pay
If you have health insurance, your insurance company will probably cover some of your medical expenses, as they would for any other injury.
However, your health insurance likely will not cover:
- Medical expenses above the maximum amount permitted by your insurance policy
- Medical treatments, prescriptions, or supplies not covered by your insurance policy
- Lost earnings
- Compensation for pain and suffering that resulted from the injury.
Generally, compensation you have already received from your insurance company cannot be considered by a jury during a premises liability lawsuit. Georgia has a "collateral source rule" that forbids introducing evidence of insurance and other injury-related payments in most injury cases. The Georgia courts have found that juries may misuse this information, so usually it cannot be included in juries' considerations regarding damage awards.
Finally, if you do receive a financial settlement from an insurance company or you are awarded damages in a premises liability lawsuit, your health insurance company is likely to demand reimbursement for the payments they made while your case was pending. The law governing these reimbursement requests is complex and differs depending on the specific type of health insurance involved, but in some cases an injured victim may be able to escape from, or reduce, any obligation to pay back a health insurer.
Dealing with the Property Owner's Insurance Company
Insurance companies are a business. To remain financially sustainable, insurance companies need to pay out less money than they take in.
Therefore, insurance companies will usually try to limit the amount they pay in business, landlord, or government premises liability cases. This means that you are likely to have to fight the responsible party's insurance company to receive the compensation you deserve.
Tactics Used by Insurance Companies and Their Attorneys
To reduce the amount that they pay out, insurance companies and their attorneys will likely try to attack your claim. Tactics insurance companies may use include:
- Attempting to prove that the property owner, business owner, or landlord was not responsible for the hazardous condition that caused your injury.
- Denying that a hazardous condition on the policyholder's property caused the injury. For example, in order to receive damages in a premises liability lawsuit, you must be able to prove that the injury resulted from the negligence of another party. The insurance company may attempt to show that you were partially or entirely responsible for your injury. Georgia's "comparative negligence" laws reduce or eliminate the damages that can be paid if the injured person was partially responsible for their own injuries.
- Minimizing the severity of the injury and any associated pain and suffering or mental anguish.
It is also likely that the insurance company will attempt to settle your case before it ever reaches a courtroom. Remember, the insurance company's goal is to pay the least amount possible to settle a claim, so a settlement offer may be much less than your injury is worth—and less than the insurance company is actually willing to pay.
Insurance policies generally have specific limits: a maximum amount that the insurance company will pay for a claim. Therefore, the most any insurance company will pay for a particular injury is the maximum amount spelled out in the policy. For example, if the insurance policy limit is $250,000, that is the maximum amount the insurance company will pay, even if the injured person's medical expenses exceed that amount.
Standing Up to Insurance Companies
Obviously, getting medical treatment for your injury is the first priority. If you are able to, you should also try to document the circumstances surrounding your injury as soon as possible after the accident occurs. Take pictures, write down the names of any witnesses, and make note of anything that might be relevant.
The insurance company will likely launch their own investigation of the circumstances surrounding your injury. That's why it is critically important that you are ready to counter the insurance company's attempts to reduce or eliminate the compensation you receive for your injury.
An experienced injury lawyer understands how insurance companies work and the tactics these companies use to minimize or deny injury claims. The Hadden Law Firm isn't afraid to stand up to insurance companies. Contact us today.