Whose Insurance Pays for a Car Accident in Georgia?
Once we buy an auto insurance policy, most of us don’t worry too much what it covers or whose insurance pays in case of an auto accident. Unfortunately, these are things we need to consider. The accident rate in Georgia is steadily rising: from 2008 to 2015, motor vehicle accidents in Georgia rose about 26% from 306,342 crashes to 385,221 crashes. These accidents were accompanied by an increase in serious injuries.
Fulton County alone saw 55,833 crashes in 2014. Though we can hope for the best, we should prepare for the worst, and that is why it’s important to know precisely whose insurance covers the cost of damages and injuries in an auto accident.
Accident victims may sue the responsible party for current and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity as well as pain and suffering. In its simplest form, the insurance of the person responsible for an accident covers the damages to the person who was not responsible. An insurance company is only going to pay up to the amount of the policy, after which it is usually necessary to look for additional coverage. That often involves looking for umbrella coverage that the other driver may have or underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage that you have
Who is at Fault for the Accident?
Of course, often more than one party is responsible for an accident, and, in Georgia, your degree of responsibility governs the percentage of compensation to which you are entitled. Georgia follows a modified comparative fault rule. That means if a court finds you to be 20% responsible, then your compensation will be reduced by 20%. If you are 50% or more responsible, then you are not entitled to compensation at all. If your case settles before trial, then the insurance companies and the lawyers involved in the negotiations consider the percentage of fault when calculating compensation offers or demands.
Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage (“UM”)
You may have the bad luck of being the victim of a crash with an underinsured or uninsured motorist. Of course, your attorney can sue the at-fault motorist directly, but people without proper insurance usually don’t have much in the way of assets to compensate you. For that reason, it’s smart to carry insurance that protects you against underinsured or uninsured motorists.
When Employees or Independent Contractors Cause Accidents
Sometimes a person gets into an auto accident while acting in the course and scope of their work. If that person was an employee of a company or another person, or if a company or another person controlled the time, manner, and method of the person’s work, then you may have additional options. O.C.G.A. §§ 51-2-2, 51-2-5.
- If the employee is driving their personal car, but the employer is reimbursing mileage, the employer’s insurance may be liable for your injuries. In fact, the amount the IRS recommends paying for mileage takes the cost of insurance coverage into account.
- Should the employee—while in the scope of employment—cause an automobile accident that injures a third party, the employer can be held responsible under long-standing legal theories.
- Respondeat superior holds that an employer is legally responsible for wrongful acts committed by their employee if done so within the scope of employment.
- Vicarious liability holds that a special relationship exists between employer and employee (or others such as parent and child) that imposes responsibility on the employer for the action of the employee.
- If the employee is injured in the scope of employment, workers’ compensation will apply, and the employee could look to their employer to compensate them.
Liability Insurance Requirements and Beyond
In Georgia, an individual must carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person and $50,000 per collision. The law also requires a minimum of $25,000 in property damage liability coverage per occurrence. This liability insurance covers the other party if you are at fault in an automobile accident. Of course, many people decide to buy more coverage, because if they are found to be responsible for an auto accident, the minimum bodily liability coverage will not go far in covering medical expenses. Also, when someone doesn’t carry enough liability coverage, an accident victim can come after his or her personal assets.
If you want to cover your personal car, you must buy physical damage insurance – something that is not required under Georgia law.
In addition to liability coverage, some people choose to buy umbrella insurance policies. An umbrella insurance policy works like extra liability insurance. It may provide additional monetary coverage above the limits of the person’s liability insurance. It may also cover claims that would have been excluded by the liability insurance policy. If the person is in an accident, the liability insurance will pay first, and then the umbrella policy will pay next. The umbrella policy will pay for anything covered by the policy, up to the limits of the umbrella policy. Often, these policies have limits of $1 million or $2 million.
Compensation for Personal Injuries and Property Damage
In some states, if you are in an accident, you can simply file a claim against your personal injury protection, and your insurance company will pay you no matter who was at fault. However, that’s not how it works in Georgia. If you are injured in Georgia, the insurance company of the at-fault party pays.
To be compensated, you can do any of the following:
- Your attorney could help you file a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company will then negotiate or sue the other party’s insurance company for your compensation.
- Your attorney could directly negotiate with the other party’s insurance company.
- Your attorney could file a personal injury lawsuit in court.
Getting Compensation from Insurance Companies
Once the question of who is liable is established, there is still the question of how much you should be compensated. Compensation is a big question, and many people don’t think about it as much. The question of how much the insurance company will pay is just as important as whether the insurance company will pay.
The property damage should be easy to calculate, but damages as a result of your personal injuries can be more difficult to determine. If you were severely injured, you could have medical expenses for years or even for the rest of your life. You may also have missed work or had to use sick days or vacation days due to your injury. You may have reduced earning capacity or possibly may never work again. In addition, you deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering if your injuries were extensive. If you take whatever the insurance company offers you, you may find yourself with ever-increasing medical bills in the coming years without any way to pay them. To protect your future and that of your family, consider consulting with a good Atlanta personal injury lawyer. They can explain your options and the complexities of your case, and work to get you the compensation you deserve.