How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Do You Have?
Georgia is a fault-based state with respect to car accidents. In simple terms, if you are injured in a crash caused by a negligent driver, you can seek compensation from that driver–or, more commonly, from their insurance company. All Georgia drivers must carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage that covers both bodily liability and property damage.
Unfortunately, these mandatory minimums are quite low. A driver only needs to carry $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per injured person or $50,000 per accident. This is often insufficient to fully compensate an accident victim for their medical bills, lost income, and other damages. On top of that, many reckless drivers who cause accidents do not even bother to carry the minimum amount of insurance, or they leave the scene of the accident so they cannot be identified.
In these situations, the victim’s own insurance policy may provide first-party benefits through uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Under Georgia law, your insurance company is required to offer UM coverage in the same amount as your bodily injury coverage. So if you purchase the minimum policy of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, you would have the same amount of UM coverage, which would kick in if the negligent driver lacks insurance or their insurer refuses to provide coverage.
Accident Victim’s Family Limited to $100,000 in UM Coverage
Although UM coverage is equal to an auto insurance policy’s bodily injury limits by default, the policyholder is free to choose a lower amount of UM coverage. Indeed, no driver has to carry UM coverage. It is purely optional. The insurer is only required to offer it.
This can often create legal conflicts between accident victims and their insurance company. A recent federal lawsuit from Dublin, Georgia, Travelers Property Casualty Company v. Hardee, provides a case in point. This case arose from an August 2021 car accident. The victim was driving north on Georgia Highway 4 when he was struck and killed by a Chevrolet Tahoe.
The victim’s children subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia state court against the driver and owner of the Tahoe. The victim’s vehicle was also covered by an uninsured motorist policy issued by Travelers to Fred Taylor Company. Travelers then filed a separate lawsuit in federal court, seeking a declaration of the limits of that UM coverage.
Fred Taylor Company purchased a number of commercial policies from Travelers, each with $1 million in liability coverage. But Travelers said Fred Taylor Company elected for a lesser amount of UM coverage–just $100,000–on the policy that covered the victim’s vehicle. The victim’s children argued they were entitled to the full $1 million, because Fred Taylor Company failed to properly execute its election of lesser coverage.
The judge sided with Travelers. The court found that the election was adequate. As such, the children were only entitled to recover $100,000 in UM benefits under Fred Taylor Company’s policy.
Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today
Dealing with insurance companies following an auto accident can often create substantial hardship for victims and their families. That is why you should always work with an experienced Fulton County personal injury lawyer who can advise you of your rights and advocate for your interests in court. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.