In Georgia you can settle your property damage claim and proceed with your injury claim and what you do in one will not affect the other. The Georgia legislature passed O.C.G.A. §51-1-32 and 51-1-33 to ensure that you and the insurance company can work out your property damage sooner and without fear that it will impact your rights if you sustain an injury. Understand that just because they pay for your car repair, it does not mean that they will accept liability on the injury. Be careful though because there is still a danger when it comes to signing releases.
The firm received a call the other day from a potential client and he had settled his property damage claim, but not the injury portion. The insurance company had very sneakily had him sign a release that released and and all claims including the one for injury. I am convinced that we could have convinced a court to void the release with regard to the injury claim on the basis that the two parties to the contract were not on the same page, but the client had already gone into Court and argued the issue on his own and lost.
Caveat Emptor; do not sign a release for property damage claims unless it clearly states it is only for property damage. Also, be sure that you have settled your potential claim for diminished value in Georgia before your sign the property damage release.
In one law, O.C.G.A. §51-1-32, it states that the physical injury and the damage to property are separate and distinct claims and you can bring them separately or together. A companion law, O.C.G.A. §51-1-33, says that if you bring the claims separately that winning in one will not control the other’s outcome.
Christopher Simon Attorney at Law
3535 Piedmont Road Building 14 Suite 410
Atlanta Georgia 30305