O.C.G.A. § 33-4-7
Copyright 2011 by The State of Georgia
All rights reserved.
*** Current Through the 2011 Regular Session ***
*** Annotations Current Through April 22, 2011 ***
TITLE 33. INSURANCE
CHAPTER 4. ACTIONS AGAINST INSURANCE COMPANIES
O.C.G.A. § 33-4-7 (2011)
§ 33-4-7. Affirmative duty to fairly and promptly adjust in incidents covered by motor vehicle liability policies; actions for bad faith; notice to Commissioner of Insurance and consumers’ insurance advocate
(a) In the event of a loss because of injury to or destruction of property covered by a motor vehicle liability insurance policy, the insurer issuing such policy has an affirmative duty to adjust that loss fairly and promptly, to make a reasonable effort to investigate and evaluate the claim, and, where liability is reasonably clear, to make a good faith effort to settle with the claimant potentially entitled to recover against the insured under such policy. Any insurer who breaches this duty may be liable to pay the claimant, in addition to the loss, not more than 50 percent of the liability of the insured for the loss or $5,000.00, whichever is greater, and all reasonable attorney’s fees for the prosecution of the action.
(b) An insurer breaches the duty of subsection (a) of this Code section when, after investigation of the claim, liability has become reasonably clear and the insurer in bad faith offers less than the amount reasonably owed under all the circumstances of which the insurer is aware.
(c) A claimant shall be entitled to recover under subsection (a) of this Code section if the claimant or the claimant’s attorney has delivered to the insurer a demand letter, by statutory overnight delivery or certified mail, return receipt requested, offering to settle for an amount certain; the insurer has refused or declined to do so within 60 days of receipt of such demand, thereby compelling the claimant to institute or continue suit to recover; and the claimant ultimately recovers an amount equal to or in excess of the claimant’s demand.
(d) At the expiration of the 60 days set forth in subsection (c) of this Code section, the claimant may serve the insurer issuing such policy by service of the complaint in accordance with law. The insurer shall be an unnamed party, not disclosed to the jury, until there has been a verdict resulting in recovery equal to or in excess of the claimant’s demand. If that occurs, the trial shall be recommenced in order for the trier of fact to receive evidence to make a determination as to whether bad faith existed in the handling or adjustment of the attempted settlement of the claim or action in question.
(e) The action for bad faith shall not be abated by payment after the 60 day period nor shall the testimony or opinion of an expert witness be the sole basis for a summary judgment or directed verdict on the issue of bad faith.
(f) The amount of recovery, including reasonable attorney’s fees, if any, shall be determined by the trier of fact and included in a separate judgment against the insurer rendered in the action; provided, however, the attorney’s fees shall be fixed on the basis of competent expert evidence as to the reasonable value of the services based on the time spent and legal and factual issues involved in accordance with prevailing fees in the locality where the action is pending; provided, further, the trial court shall have the discretion, if it finds the jury verdict fixing attorney’s fees to be greatly excessive or inadequate, to review and amend the portion of the verdict fixing attorney’s fees without the necessity of disapproving the entire verdict. The limitations contained in this Code section in reference to the amount of attorney’s fees are not controlling as to the fees which may be agreed upon by the plaintiff and his or her attorney for the services of the attorney.
(g) In any action brought pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section, and within 20 days of bringing such action, the plaintiff shall, in addition to service of process in accordance with Code Section 9-11-4, mail to the Commissioner of Insurance and the consumers’ insurance advocate a copy of the demand and complaint by first-class mail. Failure to comply with this subsection may be cured by delivering same.