Earlier this year the Georgia legislature passed House Bill 336, which was a compromise between plaintiffs’ lawyers and insurance companies regarding settlement demands. The new law, codifies the Holt settlement demand process. The new law is known as O.C.G.A. Sec. 9-11-67.1 and applies to all automobile wrecks that occur after July 1, 2013. As a result, if a personal injury attorney does not comply with these new rules, the insurance company cannot be in "bad faith" because the demand does not comply with the law.
There are Several Important Changes:
- Minimum time for Insurance companies to consider the demand upon receipt.
- All demands must cite the statute within the demand.
- Allows an open for acceptance in writing; no more saying you can only accept demand by payment.
- Demands must be sent by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested.
- The demand must offer a release of some type and clearly specify the type of release and the parties to be released.
- The insurer has the right to request more information about: medical liens, subrogation claims by health insurance, workers compensation, Medicare/Medicaid, standing to release claims, missing medical bills and missing medical records, other relevant facts.
- Insurance companies taking longer to evaluate and pay claims.
- Insurance companies rejecting or ignoring demands that do not comply within the statute.
- Insurance companies requesting more information and more medical documentation and requiring affidavits of lien information.
- Requests for very specific releases and lien information.
- Insurance companies not being found in "bad faith" if the demand did not comply within the statute.
O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1
(a) Prior to the filing of a civil action, any offer to settle a tort claim for personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle and prepared by or with the assistance of an attorney on behalf of a claimant or claimants shall be in writing and contain the following material terms:
(1) The time period within which such offer must be accepted, which shall be not less than 30 days from receipt of the offer;
(2) Amount of monetary payment;
(3) The party or parties the claimant or claimants will release if such offer is accepted;
(4) The type of release, if any, the claimant or claimants will provide to each releasee; and
(5) The claims to be released.
(b) The recipients of an offer to settle made under this Code section may accept the same by providing written acceptance of the material terms outlined in subsection (a) of this Code section in their entirety.
(c) Nothing in this Code section is intended to prohibit parties from reaching a
settlement agreement in a manner and under terms otherwise agreeable to the parties.
(d) Upon receipt of an offer to settle set forth in subsection (a) of this Code section, the recipients shall have the right to seek clarification regarding terms, liens, subrogation claims, standing to release claims, medical bills, medical records, and other relevant facts. An attempt to seek reasonable clarification shall not be deemed a counteroffer.
(e) An offer to settle made pursuant to this Code section shall be sent by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested, and shall specifically reference this Code section.
(f) The person or entity providing payment to satisfy the material term set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of this Code section may elect to provide payment by any one or more of the following means:
(2) Money order;
(3) Wire transfer;
(4) A cashier's check issued by a bank or other financial institution;
(5) A draft or bank check issued by an insurance company; or
(6) Electronic funds transfer or other method of electronic payment.
(g) Nothing in this Code section shall prohibit a party making an offer to settle from requiring payment within a specified period; provided, however, that such period shall be not less than ten days after the written acceptance of the offer to settle.
(h) This Code section shall apply to causes of action for personal injury, bodily injury, and death arising from the use of a motor vehicle on or after July 1, 2013.