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What All Georgians Need to Know About Recent Court Decision Affecting Uninsured Motorist Coverage

How much do you know about your automobile accident insurance coverage? Hint: this is not a “yes” or “no” question. It’s not about whether or not you have insurance, but instead about the type of coverage and the amount of money available to you if you’re seriously injured in a car crash.

If you aren’t sure of the answer, it is very important that you contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. While Georgia law requires those who own or lease a motor vehicle to have liability insurance, this simply provides a minimum amount of coverage to those who are injured by the driver’s negligence. Liability insurance does not provide any coverage for the driver’s own injuries or for damage to his or her car.

Minimum Coverage

If a driver goes into an insurance agency and requests only the minimum amount of insurance coverage necessary to comply with Georgia law, the agent will likely sell the driver a liability-only policy that will pay up to $25,000 per person (or $50,000 per accident) for bodily injury claims and up to $25,000 per person in property damage.

The agent is also obligated by Georgia Code § 33-7-11 (a) to offer uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to the driver, but the driver has the option of rejecting such coverage. (A rejection of UM coverage must be in writing.)

Medical Payments for the Driver

Georgia is a “fault” insurance state, meaning that there is no requirement that a driver carry insurance to pay his or her own medical expenses in the event of an accident. If you have recently moved to Georgia from a no-fault state in which personal-injury-protection (PIP) coverage was required, this is an important distinction.

A Recent Case in Which Coverage Was Disputed

A case recently under consideration by the Court of Appeals of Georgia illustrates what can happen when there is a misunderstanding about insurance coverage. The plaintiff was hurt in a 2012 wreck caused by another driver. The other driver’s insurance company willingly paid the plaintiff the policy limits of the at-fault driver’s liability policy, but there was only $25,000 in coverage.

Since the plaintiff had more than $100,000 in damages, she sought to recover additional compensation from her own UM carrier. In August 2003, the plaintiff had requested – either on the telephone or over the internet – that she be covered under a UM policy, but, apparently, she did not specify the amount of coverage that she requested. (She had first purchased insurance in 1986, but there had been several changes in her coverage over the years.)

The insurance company insisted that the plaintiff’s UM limit was only $25,000, which was the amount listed on the declarations page of her policy. The plaintiff disagreed, claiming that she was entitled to $100,000 in UM coverage because that was the amount of the liability limit. The appellate court agreed, pointing out that, since 2001, Georgia law has required UM coverage to be equal to the insured’s own bodily injury liability insurance coverage unless the insured affirmatively selects a lesser amount. The court clarified that this rule applies “whenever the insured obtains UM coverage, whether that occurs when the insured first buys the policy or when the insured requests UM coverage at some later date – unless the insured affirmatively chooses a lower limit (emphasis added).”

Talk to a Seasoned Georgia Car Accident Lawyer

It took the plaintiff several years of litigation and the consideration of the Georgia Court of Appeals (aided by an amicus curiae brief from the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association) to get the insurance coverage she was due. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident and needs the assistance of an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer to pursue fair compensation, the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, can help. Simply call us at 678-605-9109 to schedule a free consultation regarding your Atlanta area car crash, truck collision, or motorcycle wreck case.