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Georgia Court: Only One UM Policy Available Despite Two Policy Numbers

Atlanta wrongful death lawsuits can be very difficult, not only emotionally but also procedurally. Often times a family must relive the accident as they seek to prove the elements of negligence (duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages), in addition to dealing with the inherent difficulties of placing a “value” on the loss of their loved one.

It might seem that such a case would be easier when it is against one’s own insurance company in an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, but this is not necessarily the case. More often than not, even these types of claims are met with just as much contention as when a case proceeds directly against a negligent motorist.

In most cases, the parties can at least agree on the maximum possible payout of the UM/UIM claim, even if they do not agree on the exact amount due to the claimants. In a recent case, however, a dispute arose as to whether the claimants were entitled to payment under a single policy or under two separate policies. It was an important distinction, since each policy had a limit of $500,000.

Facts of the Case

In an automobile accident case recently decided by the Georgia appeals court, the plaintiffs filed suit against the defendants, an allegedly negligent driver and an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance company, seeking to recover compensation for the death of their loved ones in a fatal crash. The plaintiffs and the insurance company filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After the trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the insurance company appealed.

Resolution of the Case

The Court of Appeals of Georgia reversed the trial court’s decision. The decedents insured five separate vehicles with the defendant insurance company, allegedly under two different policy numbers. The insurance company insisted that, despite the different policy numbers, there was but a single automobile policy with $500,000 in uninsured motorist (UM) coverage (which it paid following the accident). The plaintiffs maintained that there were two separate policies and that, thus, they were entitled to an additional $500,000 in UM benefits. By granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs, the trial court agreed with them that there were two insurance policies, each of which provided separate UM coverage.

The court reversed, finding that, even if the policy declarations were ambiguous as to whether the decedents had purchased one UM coverage endorsement or two, the parol evidence before the trial court showed that there was only a single policy with a total of $500,000 in coverage. This was true despite there being two different policy numbers. In so holding, the court noted that an insurance company representative had explained that the company’s computer system allowed a maximum of four vehicles to be listed on each policy’s declarations page; since the decedents had five vehicles, a second policy number was issued. However, according to the insurance company, the decedents were notified of the reason for this and were told that there was only a single policy.

Speak to an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one in a fatal accident, you should talk to an attorney about seeking fair compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, call 678-605-9109. We handle cases throughout the metro Atlanta area, as well as the surrounding communities.