Sometimes we just have to comment on aspects of the law that cause our jaws to drop. Even though we went through long years of law school, and continue every day to learn more about the workings of our judicial system, we still can be astounded at the lengths to which some people will go to avoid their responsibilities. Sadly, we must report that it is often insurance companies and their tactics that tend to shock us most in terms of outrageous claims and conduct.
When an insurance company’s hired guns attempt to slither out of a policy to which their insured is tightly and voluntarily bound, we get a little cranky. Especially when there are injured parties who require medical help that ought to be helped by way of settlement payments.
Take the example of Blue Ridge Auto Auction v. Acceptance Indem. Ins. Co. 343 Ga. App. 319 (2017). This case arises from an insurance company’s refusal to defend it’s insured against personal injury claims.
At a used auto auction, a car driven by an employee of the auto auction company crashed into a group of people leaving many of them seriously injured. The cause of the accident was a stuck accelerator. The car, which was to be auctioned off using the service of the auto auction company, was owned by a charitable organization that operates a vehicle donation program. Individuals and companies donate used motor vehicles to this particular foundation. The charitable organization then uses auto auction companies to sell the vehicles and uses the net proceeds from the auto sales for charitable purposes. This charitable organization was insured by the indemnity insurance company named in the action.
Following the accident, the insurance company refused to provide coverage for the foundation because it claimed that no coverage was available within the language of the contract. The car auction company sued the insurance company and the war over words began.
As frequently happens, the trial began with motions for summary judgments from both sides. Both sides essentially ask the court to dismiss the case. This remedy is applicable when no questions of law exist to be answered by a jury – in other words, the trial court judge determines the outcome of the case based on existing law. This time, the judge ruled in favor of the insurance company. The court found that there was no coverage available for the injured parties.
The auto auction company was left holding the bag until they appealed the ruling. The Georgia Appellate Court examined the contract and untangled the contract terms.
At the root of the problem was a bit of “ambiguous language” stating that the insurance policy was written for a company that did business at a specific place and did work around auto repairs. It was a policy written for “garage operations.” The accident happened at a place other than the address of the policy holder and, according to the insurance company’s lawyers, was there for reasons other than what might be considered ‘garage operations’ related.
Nevertheless, the policy clearly stated that the insurance company “will pay all sums an ‘insured’ legally must pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies, caused by an ‘accident’ and resulting from ‘garage operations’ involving the ownership, maintenance or use of covered ‘autos’…”
We will attempt to spare you the details of the semantic gyrations. They were Herculean. The good news is this case had a happy ending. The appellate court determined that the charitable foundation was indeed insured under the policy in question as was the auto auction company since selling cars at auction is and was part of “all the business operations” undertaken by the insured’s garage policy. The summary judgment was reversed.
If we are frustrated by the tortuous stretching and bending of words that sometimes happens in a court of law, we are also proud that the judicial system in Georgia can and will get to the truth when it is allowed to do so.
If you had been one of the people injured as a result of this accident, you would have wanted the insurance company to pay up immediately. When that does not happen, you will want to find a good lawyer to hold the insurance company accountable.
The Millar Law Firm are personal injury lawyers dedicated to fighting the tactics of big insurance companies that work very hard at denying you compensation. Because it is our specialty, there are few things relating to insurance law and personal injuries we have not seen or dealt with in a court of law. That gives us the edge the moment we enter the courtroom.
Don’t be bullied into settling any claim until you have the help of a lawyer who knows how the complicated laws of personal injuries are meant to operate. Call us today for a free case evaluation. We will look at the facts of your case and advise you how best to proceed. There is no risk or obligation – just good, sound advice from experts in the field of personal injury.