All Georgia vehicles operating on roadways are required to be covered by liability insurance under O.C.G.A. §33-34-4. Depending on the insurance company, one can purchase a blanket policy that covers all autos in a household or a single policy for each vehicle.
In a typical Georgia automobile insurance policy, a consumer purchases an automobile policy with several categories of insurance, some mandatory, some optional. Liability insurance, covering both personal injury and property damage for others when the accident is deemed the insured’s fault, is mandatory up to a statutory minimum of $25,000. Some optional first party coverages include Uninsured Motorist coverage, Underinsured Motorist coverage, Medical Payments coverage, Collision coverage, Rental Car coverage, Comprehensive coverage, Emergency Roadside Assistance, Loss of Earnings coverage, Death, Disability and Dismemberment coverage and several other varieties of insurance. Descriptions of the major types of coverages are provided below:
Property Damage Liability and Personal Injury Liability. Second party coverage for persons who suffer property damage or injury through the fault of the insured driver. Typically, if you are injured in an accident and the other party is cited, this category of coverage will pay for your car, your injuries and your passenger’s injuries. It may also cover the passengers in the at-fault driver’s car, since they were innocent victims too. In addition to medical expenses, liability insurance typically covers for lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of ability to earn an income, future damages and punitive damages.
Uninsured/Underinsured for Property Damage and Personal Injury (“UM” Coverage). First party coverage for damages caused by another who is not insured or who does have enough insurance. This is coverage on your policy that protects you if the person at fault did not have high enough liability limits to cover your damages. UM insurance on your vehicle can cover you even if you were not in your vehicle at the time of the accident. This is a non-mandatory coverage and can be declined. However, it is best to maximize this coverage, as it is relatively inexpensive and a good value. If you have been seriously injured in an accident, then it is obviously helpful if the at-fault driver had very high liability limits. However, you cannot control this. You can only control the UM limits you purchase. Usually the worst, most dangerous drivers pay a lot of money for minimum policy limits from dubious insurers. You can protect yourself by getting the highest UM policy limits available. You can also purchase an umbrella policy to increase your UM limits even further. I highly recommend maximizing UM coverage.
Medical Payments Coverage: First party “Med Pay” coverage for reasonable and necessary medical expenses for insured persons (typically authorized drivers and their passengers) in the covered vehicle, regardless of fault. Med pay does not cover people in the other vehicle.
Collision Coverage. First party property damage coverage for the insured vehicle when damaged in a collision, as distinguished from theft, contact with an animal, vandalism, falling objects, etc. This coverage usually covers damage to the at fault party’s vehicle.
Comprehensive. First party coverage for ancillary property damage to the covered vehicle which was not caused by a collision.
Whether you have been in an auto accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident or boating accident, the insurance coverages generally work the same way. If the accident was your fault, then your liability insurance is relevant and the other party will seek coverage from your policy. If the accident was the other party’s fault, then you can seek coverage under that person’s policy. However, if that person did not have sufficient coverage, then you can seek coverage under your own UM coverage.
Medical Payments coverage, or “Med Pay” as it is know in the industry, is really just a substitute for health insurance that only pays if you are in a vehicle accident. It only covers people in the covered vehicle, unlike liability insurance, and it only pays up to the policy limits. Most policy limits are $1,000 to $5,000, so it is useful for hospital deductibles and co-pays, but not for major medical expenses. Some med pay policies also cover funeral expenses.
Injured victims sometimes get confused because of the timing of the coverages. Typically all auto liability insurance pays you a one-time, lump sum in exchange for a release. Unfortunately, your medical bills are not incurred in a lump sum in the future. They are incurred in stages from many providers who want their money at the time of service. If you have med pay or health insurance, you should generally use this coverage to pay your healthcare expenses as these are incurred, and then seek reimbursement under the liability policy of the offending driver only when you are healed, have had all conditions diagnosed and are in a position to evaluate your total damages. Or, at least when you have reached “maximum medical improvement”. However, your situation may be different, so speak to an experienced Georgia auto accident lawyer to make sure that your claim is handled properly.
From a main office in Gwinnett County, attorney Charles Scholle serves clients from offices in Midtown and the Perimeter and represents victims throughout Atlanta and Georgia. To set up your free consultation, you can send the firm a message online or call toll-free at 866-972-5287 or in Atlanta at 770-717-5100.