A common mistake that unrepresented individuals can make following a car accident is to hastily agree to a settlement offer made by the defendant’s insurer and sign a liability waiver, precluding them from filing suit for any future issues that may arise, such as undeveloped or undiscovered personal injuries.
In one such case, it appears as though the plaintiff may have been represented, as there was very specific language regarding the nature of the limited liability waiver which she signed.
In the case, Watford v. Cowart, Dist. Court, MD Ga. (2013), the parties were involved in a car accident in Cook County, Georgia. Following the accident, the plaintiff filed suit, seeking damages for the injuries she alleges were caused as a result of the defendant negligently and recklessly operating her vehicle. Plaintiff’s initial complaint sought general damages, special damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to Georgia State Law.
In responding to the plaintiff’s suit, the defendant admitted liability, stating that she did negligently operate her vehicle, and essentially acquiesced to the plaintiff’s allegations. Defendant had an automobile liability insurance policy at the time of the accident, with a coverage limit of $300,000. The plaintiff was also insured under a separate policy, which provides uninsured motorist coverage.
Sometime later during the course of the suit, in exchange for a payment of the liability policy limit of $300,000, the plaintiff executed a limited liability release pursuant to relevant Georgia law, which stated in relevant part that she settled her claims against the insurer and granted a limited release for “ PERSONAL INJURY AND BODILY INJURY ONLY. NOTHING CONTAINED IN THIS RELEASE WILL BAR OR PREVENT THE UNDERSIGNED FROM PROSECUTING A CAUSE OF ACTION FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE AGAINST THE INSURER AND LIMITED RELEASEES.”
The main purpose of phrasing the limited release in that way was so that the plaintiff could proceed with a claim under her uninisured motorist policy. However, it also had the effect of precluding everything else she was seeking in the case.
The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in regards to the plaintiff’s claims for punitive damages and attorney’s fees, and sought a setoff of $300,000, should a jury verdict grant plaintiff an award in excess of that amount. Defendant also sought to clarify that plaintiff could not reach her personal assets.
The court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that, because the release did not specifically retain the ability to pursue punitive damages or attorneys fees, but did retain the potential for property damage, the release acted to relieve any of the claims that were not specifically carved out.
Additionally, the court found that the language of the release relieved the defendant from any personal liability, and thus the plaintiff could not pursue the defendant’s personal assets in securing damages. Essentially, the court found, the only judgment that the plaintiff could enforce would be against her own uninsured motorist policy.
If you have been involved in a car accident in Atlanta that caused you personal injuries, and you believe that the other driver was responsible for driving negligently, contact the Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer, Stephen M. Ozcomert. As one of the most sought-after personal injury attorneys in the state, Mr. Ozcomert combines over 20 years of litigation experience and caring dedication to provide you with the best possible legal representation. Do not rely on insurance adjusters to protect your best interests; their only goal is to settle as quickly and for as little as possible Contact us today by calling (404)-370-1000 in order to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Georgia Court of Appeals Case Demonstrates Importance of Acting Quickly Following Trucking Accident, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published December 11, 2013
Default Judgment in Georgia Car Accident Cases, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published December 4, 2013