WHAT IS UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE
If you have suffered an injury because of a car accident, the first thing you should do is go to the doctor and begin medical care. Once you begin your recovery, you’ll want to learn what insurance is available to pay for that medical care, your pain, and your lost time from work. There are two types of insurance that will help you: the other driver’s insurance which is called “liability insurance coverage”, and your own auto insurance which is called “uninsured motorist insurance” or “underinsured motorist coverage.” But what is uninsured motorist coverage?
WHAT IS LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE
Liability insurance covers the injuries and the damage that another driver causes to someone else. The minimum amount of liability insurance that each driver must have in order to legally be allowed to drive depends on the state that the person lives in. In Georgia, the minimum amount of insurance is at least $25,000 per person in each accident and $50,000 total per accident.
This means that if you are hit by another driver, that driver should have at least $25,000 in insurance. So if driver A strikes driver B, and driver B has a passenger in his car, then under driver A’s insurance $25,000 is available to driver B, and $25,000 is available to driver B’s passenger. However, should and does are two different words. While Georgia requires that drivers carry insurance, not every driver does. And while that’s a criminal offense, the fact that the other driver should have had insurance does not help you very much. Some drivers ignore their responsibility and drive without insurance. In other cases, drivers do pay for the $25,000 insurance coverage but the damage they cause far exceeds the $25,000 minimum limit. When either of these situations happen, your own auto insurance can step in and help. A good car accident lawyer knows how to read insurance policies and stack them to maximize the coverage.
WHAT IS UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE (or “UM” Insurance”)?
If you’re asking yourself “what is uninsured motorist coverage?”, our attorneys can tell you that “Uninsured motorist insurance”—also known as “underinsured motorist insurance” or “UM insurance”—is insurance coverage for when the at-fault driver didn’t carry enough insurance. UM coverage protects you when you are hurt because of an accident, but the responsible driver either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to compensate you for what happened.
Let’s consider that example from earlier with driver A and driver B. What happens if driver B suffers a devastating injury which requires surgery and extensive rehab, and driver B’s passenger has no injuries or bruising? Obviously the $25,000 in insurance that driver A has is not enough to compensate driver B for what happened. Can we give the whole $50,000 insurance policy to driver B since driver B’s passenger is fine? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In order for driver B to receive any more money for his injuries and pain, he needs a UM policy. If driver B has UM insurance, then his own insurance should step in and pay him the additional money. So for example, let’s say that driver B has $25,000 in UM insurance, then he will be able to collect the first $25,000 from driver A’s insurance and will then be able to collect another $25,000 from his own insurance company. A good injury lawyer knows when to file against a UM carrier, how to serve a UM carrier, and most importantly, how to name the insurance company in the lawsuit.
Here are some important facts to consider in understanding UM insurance:
1. If you were not at fault, using your UM insurance should not increase your premium or result in cancellation of your policy. O.C.G.A. § 33-9-40.
2. While liability insurance is mandatory, UM insurance is optional.
3. When you’ve answered the question “what is uninsured motorist coverage?” and you decide that you do want UM insurance, make sure you ask for the “Add On” UM insurance versus the “Reduced” UM insurance. An “add on” policy means that you get to add whatever amount of UM insurance you have to the other driver’s insurance. A “reduced” policy means you deduct your UM insurance from the striking driver’s insurance and whatever amount is left over is what is available to you to collect. So for example if driver A hits driver B, and driver A has $100,000 in liability insurance and driver B has $50,000 in add on UM insurance, then driver B may be able to collect a total of $150,000 in insurance. However, if driver A has $100,000 in liability insurance and driver B has $50,000 in reduced UM insurance, then driver B only can collect a total of $100,000 in insurance. Make sure your personal injury lawyer requests all policies. In some situations it’s possible to stack, which means add the policies on top of each other.
4. When you select your UM policy and you’re asked to pick whether you want an add on or a reduced policy, the default selection is that you will get an add on policy. If the insurance company cannot produce a written election where you outright rejected the add on choice, then you should automatically have an add on policy. O.C.G.A. §33-7- 11 (b)(1)(D)(2)(II).
5. Your UM insurance goes with you wherever you go. Your UM insurance protects you whether you’re driving, sitting as a passenger in someone else’s car, or walking in the street.
6. If you live with someone and that person has UM insurance, you may qualify under that person’s policy as a “resident relative”.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT WHEN YOU WORK WITH OUR FIRM
Most of the time our clients come to us without knowing what insurance they have. And that’s okay—we know what to do about it. We know how to make insurance companies prove to us what insurance they have, and in what amounts. We also know how to look for other insurance that may be available, like umbrella policies or resident relative policies, to cover the collision.
The point is: you don’t need to be an expert in auto insurance law, because we are. If you have been hurt in a car accident, call us for a free consultation. Yes we know the answer to “what is uninsured motorist coverage?” and know the law and know how to win in court, but just as importantly we pride ourselves on our accessibility to our clients. Google us and you’ll find glowing 5 star reviews.