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Consumers Warned About Low-Ball Insurance Settlements for Car Accident Injury Claims

According to a recent report by the Consumer Federation of America, accident injury victims are being cheated on insurance claims by a system that puts more money in insurance company pockets while short-changing injured consumers. Because there are so many types of serious injuries that occur in this country every year-from head or brain injuries and severe burns to broken bones and neck or back injuries-this issue affects millions of people.

Entitled "Low Ball: An Insider's Look at How Some Insurers Can Manipulate Computerized Systems to Broadly Underpay Injury Claims," the 23-page, in-depth report sheds light on what the CFA perceives as an industry-wide problem. Until the late 1990s, the process of assessing bodily injury claims for car, home or property insurance was based on the expertise of insurance claims adjusters, according to the report. But since then, computer-based systems have become the main method of assessment, which can be easily manipulated by insurers.

The reliable and experienced Georgia personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays encourage anyone who has been injured or who has an injured relative to read the CFA report. Though intended to alert regulators as to complexities in bodily injury assessment systems and ways insurers are using it to line their pockets, it provides valuable insights for consumers as well.

With a focus on medical evaluation software, the report details everything from how injury victim medical bills are manipulated by health insurers to ways accident victims are fooled into thinking they're responsible for part of their injury treatment costs. The CFA urges the national and state insurance regulators to improve procedures in order to ensure proper market conduct and oversight activities.

The core message to everyone-whether you were injured in a car accident, are dealing with a premises liability case from a parking lot injury or trying to file a nursing home injury claim-is to be aware that the insurance company may be trying to low-ball your injury insurance settlement so it can make more profits.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury of any kind, you need tough legal representation to make sure that you are not a victim of insurance company bullying and manipulation. Contact the reliable, aggressive Atlanta personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of Gary Martin Hays & Associates. Call us at 1-800-898-HAYS or fill out our online contact form today.

The Law Office of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C.

3098 Breckinridge Blvd.

Duluth, GA  30096

Georgia drivers may soon have access to life-saving yellow dot program

Georgia may soon become the ninth state nationwide to adopt an innovative life-saving program which immediately provides emergency workers with vital information about drivers and passengers on the road. And there's nothing high tech or modern about the "yellow dot" program.

Motorists simply stick a large yellow dot on their vehicle. That dot lets emergency first responders know there's medical information about the person in the car or truck inside the glove compartment.

Every second counts after a serious accident. Have you or someone you love been injured in an auto accident caused by another driver in Georgia? Don't suffer in silence because of someone else's irresponsible actions. Contact a Georgia car accident injury lawyer who will stand up for you. Contact the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates. Serving clients throughout Georgia, our experienced Atlanta auto accident injury attorneys believe strongly in making sure injury victims get the compensation they rightfully deserve. Allow us to help your family get back on track. Contact a Georgia auto accident injury attorney dedicated to fighting for justice. Contact the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates.

The "yellow dot" program began in 2009 in one county in Alabama. The program now exists in 27 Alabama counties and parts of seven other states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Virginia.

Rescue workers call the first 60 minutes after an injury accident the "golden hour." Whether a person lives or dies depends largely on what kind of treatment they receive during this time.

Accidents happen fast. You life can change forever in an instant. You need an experienced law firm on your side who responds just as quickly to your case. You need the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates. We're on your side.

School bus rear-end accident in Norcross, GA, results in injuries to children

One school bus rear-ended another school bus in Norcross on April 25, which resulted in about 10 students apparently sustaining minor injuries.

The students, who were treated at the scene, complained of back pain and other injuries, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The driver of the bus, whose name was not released, was cited by police for following too closely. The driver was treated for minor injuries at Gwinnett Medical Center in Duluth.

Gwinnett County Public School officials are investigating the school bus accident in Norcross, which involved a special needs school bus bound for Camp Creek Elementary School. The bus was rear-ended by a Lilburn Middle School bus carrying 38 students, the AJC reported.

School officials relieved both school bus drivers of their duties, which is district transportation protocol, according to the AJC.

Rear-end accidents are among the most common types of traffic accidents. In some cases, a driver may be distracted and take his or her eyes off of the road. As this case illustrates, police say the driver was following too closely, which also is a common cause of rear-end accidents in Georgia.

"Whether you're a bus driver, a truck driver or someone who is on their way to work or the grocery store," said Georgia personal injury lawyer Gary Martin Hays, "you should always keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you. Following too closely, which is the cause of many accidents, poses a real threat. Hopefully all of the injured students will make a full recovery."

Semi truck accident in Atlanta results in death of newlywed wife


A newlywed wife died in a semi truck accident in Atlanta when the 18-wheeler apparently changed lanes and clipped a car driven by the woman on April 24.

The woman who died was identified as Danielle Holly, 21, of Woodstock, Georgia, according to news reports. Some reports are identifying the woman as Danyal Holley. Her husband, whose name was not released, was transported to the Grady Memorial Hospital and treated for his injuries.

Police charged truck driver Jack Parsons with second-degree vehicular homicide and improper lane change.

A police spokeswoman said that the tractor-trailer driver was trying to change lines and did not see the Nissan in the blind spot. The Nissan Sentra was struck by the truck and flipped onto its side.

The accident prompted police to shut down the southbound lanes of Interstate 285 four several hours. According to, the accident occurred on the west side of I-285, just before the MLK Boulevard overpass.

Truck drivers may be negligent if they fail to check mirrors and cause an accident. It's important for drivers to be mindful of other traffic as they make lane changes.

"The death of this young woman is a terrible tragedy.  This wreck should serve as a reminder to all drivers about the importance of checking mirrors and using turn signals when making lane changes. For truck drivers, this is especially crucial due to the size of their rigs. Even a 'minor' error by the driver can have devastating consequences."

-Gary Martin Hays

Georgia Benefits You Should Receive for Your Wrecked, Repaired Vehicle

Each year, there are more than 300,000 car wrecks in Georgia. In 2006, the number reached over 340,000. While this number encompasses all types of crashes, from minor fender-benders to major collisions, these accidents often result in serious damage to the vehicles involved.

Even though some people may decide to pay for the damage to their vehicles out-of-pocket rather than go through the hassle of dealing with an insurance company, many more will have no choice but to file a claim with their insurer or the at-fault party's insurance company in order to have their vehicles repaired.

Mabry and Diminished Value

What many people are not aware of, however, is that under their Georgia auto insurance policies, they may be entitled to recover not only repair costs, but also for the diminished value of their vehicles after repair.

In a 2001 Georgia Supreme Court case, State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Mabry (274 Ga. 498), the court stated that an insurance company's obligation to pay for loss includes the duty to pay for the vehicle's lost value, otherwise referred to as "diminished value" or "diminution in value," so long as the vehicle was not a total loss. The court recognized that even if a vehicle that has been damaged in an accident is perfectly repaired, the value of the car may not be the same, particularly when the car owner attempts to sell or trade the car at a later date.

Once an accident is reported, companies like CarFax attach information to the vehicle identification number (VIN) alerting anyone who accesses the public site that the car has been in an accident. It is routine for auto dealerships to pull up CarFax and similar reports before buying a used car or taking a trade-in - and lower their offers based on the information in the report. Depending on the make, model and age of the vehicle, some cars may diminish in value by as much as 25% after an accident; luxury vehicles may lose up to 50% of their value.

Thus, in Mabry, the court held that the difference in the car's pre-accident and post-accident value is part of the loss calculation insurance companies must determine. Insurance companies should determine this loss at the time they assess the damage to the vehicle and the cost of repairs. If it is determined that the car's value has been diminished by the accident, the insurance company is required to compensate the vehicle owner for this loss as part of the property loss claim.

Georgia Penalties for Failing to Pay Claims

While the Mabry court gave Georgia policyholders the right to recover the diminution in value of their vehicles after an accident, the court did not announce any standard formula the insurance companies are required to use to determine the loss in value. This has resulted in some insurance companies' offering pennies on the dollar for diminished value, cheating vehicle owners out of the money they are entitled to receive under their insurance contracts.

However, insurers who offer low settlement amounts or who fail to pay anything for the diminution in value do so in violation of the law. Georgia imposes heavy penalties on insurance companies that do not uphold their legal obligations. Part of these legal duties includes settling claims with policyholders fairly, promptly and in good faith.

Under Georgia law (OCGA § 33-4-6), once a policyholder makes a demand for payment of a loss that is covered under the insurance policy, the insurance company has 60 days to either pay the claim or provide a legal basis for refusing to pay the claim. If the insurance company's refusal to pay the claim is in bad faith, the policyholder may be entitled to receive:

  • $5000 in penalties or 50% of the diminished value of the vehicle (whichever is greater)
  • Attorney fees

The same penalty applies whether you make a demand for payment with your own insurance company (a "first party" claim) or with the insurance company of the person at fault for the accident (a "third party" claim).

Regardless of the penalties they face for violating the law, many insurance companies continue to offer lowball estimates for diminished value. For this reason, policyholders should not automatically accept the insurance company's appraisal of their vehicle's loss in value.

Protecting Your Rights to Compensation for Diminished Value

Contacting an attorney is one of the best ways to protect your rights and help you receive fair compensation for the diminished value of your vehicle.

The attorney can consult independent sources to determine your vehicle's true loss in value. Then the attorney can enter into settlement negotiations on your behalf with the insurance company.

Georgia is one of the few states in the country to recognize a policyholder's right to recover for diminished value. Do not let the insurance company get away with paying you less than you are owed under your insurance contract.