Why is Knowledge of Insurance Law Important for Lawyers Handling Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases?
NOTE: We do not currently handle first party insurance claims, e.g., auto, homeowners , and medical, unrelated to a case of serious personal injury or wrongful death.
The development of injury law is closely intertwined with the development of insurance markets. At the most basic level, insurance is a method by which large groups of persons and entities can spread, and therefore reduce, the risk of loss by contributing premiums to an insurer, which then compensates parties suffering losses from the common premium fund. The fortunate insureds who rarely if ever experience suffer a loss collectively pay for the losses of the less fortunate. Since losses are rarely predictable, the cost of a premium is generally a reasonable price to pay for protection from a possible future loss.
In handling personal injury and wrongful death claims, liability insurance is often at the forefront, since the presence or absence of this type of coverage may determine whether there is any real likelihood of recovering for a loss. While the presence (and applicability) of liability insurance is usually not directly relevant to the merits of a tort claim, it is often of critical importance in assessing the viability of a claim. In addition, other types of insurance coverage may apply to a client's claim and provide separate routes to an adequate recovery.
In some cases, an insurer's actions in handling a claim can come to the forefront and create separate claims under theories of “bad faith.” Therefore, a lawyer representing injured people must have broad knowledge about various types of insurance coverages that are commonly relevant to in these cases.
Ken Shigley is a past chair of the Tort & Insurance Practice Section of the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He worked a decade in a law firm that represented numerous insurance companies in both defense of injury and death cases and in insurance coverage litigation. He is also a past president of the State Bar of Georgia with a long list of professional honors and distinctions.