Articles Tagged with uninsured motorist coverage

When you are injured in an accident caused by another driver, you may be entitled to benefits from your own insurer if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. Essentially, UM coverage means your insurance company “steps into the shoes” of the negligent driver, who is either an unknown person, lacks insurance altogether, or has coverage that does not fully compensate you for your injuries.

Under Georgia law, an auto insurer must provide UM coverage by default. The insured party is free to reject this coverage in writing. Before 2001, state law only required UM coverage at certain minimum level, although the insured could ask for a higher limit in writing. The General Assembly subsequently amended the UM coverage rules in 2001 and 2008. The 2001 amendment said an insurance company had to offer minimum UM coverage of either $25,000 per person (or $50,000 per accident) or an amount “equal to the liability coverage in the insured’s underlying policy.” In other words, if you purchased more than $25,000/$50,000 in coverage for your regular policy, then by default your insurer would offer you the same amount in UM coverage. If you wished to purchase less in UM coverage, you could do so in writing.

UM coverage under the 2001 rules were known as “reduced by” policies. This meant that the amount of UM coverage you could receive from your insurer was reduced by whatever money you received from the negligent driver’s insurance company. In 2008, the General Assembly amended the law to change the default UM policy from “reduced by” to “added on.” Under this new default, you are entitled to the full amount of UM coverage for any damages that exceed the negligent driver’s policy limits. Again, you can elect to go back to the prior “reduced by” standard, which many drivers do because it has a lower premium.

Georgia law requires auto insurance companies to offer “uninsured motorist” (UM) coverage with every new policy. As you probably know, UM coverage provides you with benefits if you are injured by an unknown driver in a “hit and run” accident, or by a known driver who simply lacks sufficient insurance to compensate you for your injuries. By default, your insurer must offer minimum UM coverage of $25,000 per person (or $50,000 per accident), or the level of standard liability coverage, whichever is higher at the time.

You are, of course, free to reject UM coverage when you purchase your insurance policy. The insurance company is required to get this rejection in writing. Once you reject UM coverage, keep in mind the insurer is not required to get a new rejection each year when you renew the policy. In other words, once you reject UM coverage, that rejection may remain in force as long as you keep that same policy.

Hunter v. Progressive Mountain Insurance Company

Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides you with important financial protections in the event of an accident with a driver who lacks sufficient insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries. What about a situation in which you are driving someone else’s car? Can you claim UM benefits under their policy?

Jones v. Federated Mutual Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue in the context of a somewhat unusual case. The plaintiffs were test-driving a car owned by a dealership. At the time, neither plaintiff had his or her own auto insurance.

Each year more than 300 people die on Georgia roadways in drunk driving accidents. While prosecutors can file criminal charges against the drunk driver, that does not compensate victims and their families for their losses. Unfortunately, in many cases the drunk driver either has no insurance or lacks sufficient coverage to fully compensate the victims.

This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can come into play. Under Georgia law, all auto insurance providers must offer UM/UIM coverage as part of their standard policies. The customer has the option to decline such coverage, but must do so in writing. While you are free to purchase any amount of UM/UIM insurance that an insurer offers, state law sets minimum coverage at $25,000 for bodily injury per person (or $50,000 per accident). In many cases, it is a good idea to purchase significantly more coverage, as the damages from an accident can easily exceed $50,000, especially if there is serious injury or death.

Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Musgrove

Uninsured motorist coverage extends the protection of your own automobile insurance to accidents caused by another party who lacks sufficient insurance to compensate you for any injuries. For example, let’s say a drunk driver hits you. You subsequently sue the driver and win $1,000,000 in damages from the jury. But the driver only has $25,000 in insurance and lacks any other assets to pay the remainder of the judgment. In this situation you could seek compensation under your own policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.

Coker v. American Guarantee and Liability Insurance Company

The above example seems relatively straightforward. But what happens when there are multiple insurers who may be liable for the same accident? A federal appeals court in Atlanta recently addressed such a case.

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