Most motor vehicle accident claims are handled by insurance companies. With that in mind, you may be surprised to find out that Georgia law generally prohibits you from filing a personal injury lawsuit directly against a defendant’s insurance company unless there is an unsatisfied judgment. In fact, if you file a claim against the negligent driver, their insurance provider will not be named as a defendant—even though their company’s lawyers will defend that case. As in many other areas, truck accidents are different.
There is an important exception contained in Georgia’s state statutes. In a truck accident case, a plaintiff can take ‘Direct Action’ against the responsible insurance company. In this article, our top-rated Conyers truck accident attorneys provide an overview of the most important things you need to know about ‘Direct Action’ claims in Georgia.
What You Need To Know About Georgia’s Direct Action Statute
As was mentioned, Georgia’s laws typically bar injured victims from filing lawsuits directly against third party insurance companies. You can sue your own insurance company, but without a contract, there technically is no direct cause of action against a negligent defendant’s insurance carrier. That third party insurer is only liable to the extent that they must cover their policyholder (the negligent defendant).
Truck accidents are an exception to the rule. Georgia’s statutes explicitly state that insurance companies that provide liability coverage to ‘motor carriers’—which includes virtually all commercial trucking companies—are subject to another standard. Here are Georgia’s two key direct action statutes:
- O.C.G.A. § 40-2-140: A subsection of the state’s administration of the Unified Carrier Registration Act, O.C.G.A. § 40-2-140 states that any person who has a cause of action against a motor carrier (trucking company) has the same cause of action against the company’s insurer.
- O.C.G.A. § 40-1- 112: Under O.C.G.A. § 40-1- 112, plaintiffs have another potential direct action claim against an insurer of a truck company. The statute permits any person with a cause of action to join a motor carrier (trucking company) and the company’s insurance provider.
The Bottom Line: If you or your loved one were seriously hurt in a truck accident it is important to understand all of your options. You can file a lawsuit against a negligent trucking company and against the truck company’s insurance provider. An experienced lawyer will protect your rights and make sure that your case is handled properly.
Why Does Direct Action Matter?
You may be wondering: Why does Georgia’s direct action statute matter in a truck accident claim? It is a reasonable question. After all, the insurance company will still handle the claim and its lawyers will even take the case to court if litigation is necessary. Further, at the end of the process, the insurance company can be held legally liable for paying an unsatisfied judgment. While that is all true, Georgia’s direct action statute for truck accidents still matters.
With other types of personal injury lawsuits, the jury is never even informed that the defendant has insurance coverage that is responsible for paying the claim. Remember, a jury is made up of your peers—jury members are people. Even though a defendant’s insurance coverage (or lack thereof) technically should not affect the value of a personal injury verdict, people are impacted by the circumstances of the case. No person wants to bankrupt a small, family-operated trucking company.
This is why direct action is an extremely important tool for truck accident victims: When a jury understands that a giant commercial insurance company is responsible for the damages, they are far more likely to issue a larger (and more fair) award. By bringing a direct action claim against a truck company’s insurer, you will be in a better position to maximize your settlement offer or jury verdict. In practice, direct action against a trucking company’s insurer is complicated—it is imperative that you consult with an experienced attorney right away.
Call the Lawyers at MG Law for Assistance Today
At MG Law, our attorneys are skilled, experienced advocates for injured victims and their families. We are committed to being leaders in personal injury claims and in our community. If you have questions about Georgia’s direct action statute, we are available to help. For a no-cost, no-obligation review of your case, please contact us now. With offices in Conyers, Atlanta, and Covington, we represent truck accident victims throughout all of North Georgia.
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