Georgia's Declarations Page Statute: Another Tool in the Toolkit
by David Boohaker, Esquire, McDonald Law FirmWhen you get a new call from a client who needs help, you know you've got a new puzzle in front of you to figure out. Sometimes you get that client who is perfectly organized and has all of the documents you need. More often than not, that's not the case. We all know that one of the most important, if not the most important, document in a client's case is her insurance policy. But what if she doesn't have a copy?
Theoretically, you have three potential sources that could supply you with a copy of the policy: the policy holder herself; her carrier; and her agent. In our scenario, though, the policy holder doesn't have a copy of her policy. That leaves the agent and the carrier. Oftentimes, the agent and the carrier, if they respond at all to letters of representation, claim that they cannot provide the information.
I suggest adding a new element to your document requests and letter of representation: O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28. This statute allows your insured to request and receive a copy of her declarations page without charge from her carrier. Here's a shortened version of the statute:
(a)(1) Every insurer providing liability or casualty insurance coverage in this state and which is or may be liable to pay all or a part of any claim shall provide, within 60 days of receiving a written request from the claimant, a statement, under oath, of a corporate officer or the insurer's claims manager stating with regard to each known policy of insurance issued by it, including excess or umbrella insurance, the name of the insurer, the name of each insured, and the limits of coverage. Such insurer may provide a copy of the declaration page of each such policy in lieu of providing such information. The claimant's request shall set forth under oath the specific nature of the claim asserted and shall be mailed to the insurer by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery.
In essence, this statute entitles your client to a copy of the declarations page for each policy covering her property. Notice, though, that there are certain requirements that have to be fulfilled. Obviously, it needs to be in writing. You'll also need an affidavit outlining her claim, signed and notarized by your client, to send to the carrier. It is best practice to include a copy of the affidavit along with your letter of representation. I would also suggest that your letter of representation make clear that it is the policyholder who is requesting the information, but that it be sent to your attention. The request must be mailed certified or overnight. We are happy to provide a sample affidavit and review your letter of representation if you would like.
Once your client's request is received, the carrier has 60 days to respond. Additionally, other portions of the statute not copied above require the carrier to update the information provided if they discover additional or inconsistent information about your insured's policies.
Of course, this procedure may not always be necessary. You'll need to make decisions on a case by case basis. However, if you encounter that one case that is stubborn and you need the information, it's helpful to know that this tool exists.
David Boohaker, Esq., McDonald Law Firm, can be reached at 855-702-9061