Insurance Companies Normally Cannot Be Sued Directly
In most personal injury lawsuits in Georgia, the injured person cannot sue the defendant’s insurance company. Only the defendant itself can be sued. For example, if you are in a car accident in Georgia, you have to sue the driver. You cannot sue the insurance company, even if there is insurance. The insurance company provides a defense for its insured—the driver—and pays any settlement or judgment up to the insurance policy limits.
Not only can you generally not sue the insurance company, but the fact that a defendant has insurance is normally not even admissible in evidence. This means that the jury never gets to hear that there is insurance. The reason for this rule is that insurance is irrelevant to whether a defendant was negligent or the amount of a person’s damages, and allowing insurance information into evidence could cause a jury to award money just because it knows there is an insurance policy there to pay. While there are certainly arguments to be made for why insurance should be inadmissible, there are also downsides to preventing juries from hearing about insurance. Some people think that if an injured person is suing that the defendant has to pay any award out of its own bank account. This can be especially troublesome in cases involving individual defendants because jurors may fear that a large damages award could have an adverse effect on the person.
Georgia's Direct Action Statutes
Trucking accident cases are different. Georgia law allows a “direct action” against the defendant’s insurance company. The “Direct Action Statutes” provide that a person injured in an accident with a “motor carrier” can sue the insurance company. See O.C.G.A. § 40-2-140; O.C.G.A. § 40-1-112. Trucking companies hauling freight are a clear example of motor carriers. In a case involving injuries sustained in a crash that a negligent trucker caused, the liability insurance company can be named as a defendant in the lawsuit, in addition to the truck driver and the driver’s employer.
The Direct Action Statues are not just limited to tractor-trailer accidents. Motor carriers include commercial motor vehicles that transport passengers. For example, the insurance company may be able to be named as a defendant in a bus accident.
It is beneficial for an injured person to name an insurance company as a defendant. Having an insurance company as a defendant prevents a jury from the thinking that a defendant will have to pay for any judgment out of its own pocket. In addition, the fact that the injured party has a direct action against the insurer can be helpful if the insurer tries to deny coverage based on its insured’s failure to comply with certain conditions in the insurance policy. Because there are key benefits to being able to sue an insurance company, it is important to look at the relevant federal and state statutes and regulations in any case involving a motor carrier.
Trucking Injures Require an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Cases involving commercial motor vehicles can cause big damages. Passenger cars and trucks are often no match for large trucks, buses, and tractor-trailers. Because of the severity of these accidents and the serious injuries that frequently result, it is important that a person who has been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer or bus contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. The insurance companies and corporate defendants are very sophisticated. As soon as a bad truck or bus accident happens, the defendants are putting their resources to work right away to build a defense. It is important that an injured person have someone on their side who can represent their interests, preserve key evidence, build a case, and advocate for them. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle, call the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at The Champion Firm for a free consultation.