Why do you need uninsured motorist insurance?Most motorists likely know very little about Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) automobile policies. Under Georgia law, these policies must be offered by the automobile insurance company to all Georgians. However, insurance companies seem to do a poor job of explaining their intended purpose and the significance of the corresponding coverage elections under these policies. UM/UIM coverage can be helpful for both property damage and bodily injury claims. However, adding such a policy to your insurance plan is more expensive and people may determine that the extra cost is not worth the extra coverage. Unfortunately, while UM/UIM motorist coverage isn’t commonly used, there are certain situations that could arise where not having this policy can have a lasting negative impact on your personal injury case and your health in general. Quite simply, the purpose of these policies is to provide coverage in the event of a wreck where the at-fault driver has either no liability insurance (uninsured) or insufficient liability coverage (underinsured), meaning that the damages exceed the value of the liability policy limits. Either scenario can be more common than one may realize, leaving injured car wreck victims with insufficient funds to compensate them for their damages. For the purpose of this article, our focus is on personal injury damages as opposed to property damage. These damages include necessary and reasonable medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and diminished quality of life. For example, what if you are rear-ended and the other driver doesn’t have insurance at the time? Or what if the injuries you sustained are so severe that you require extensive treatment, forcing you to accrue medical expenses that exceed their liability limits? Sadly, both of these possibilities happen often enough that we need to have this conversation. When they do, you may need to consult an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney to learn about other legal options for getting compensation from the at-fault driver.
Georgia car insurance laws and requirementsThe state of Georgia doesn’t require drivers to have uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage for a vehicle where there is no loan being paid off. These types of insurance offer additional protection for drivers in the event that they are victims of a car accident and the other driver either has no insurance or doesn’t have sufficient insurance. Under Georgia law, all motorists are required to have liability coverage of no less than $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. These minimum coverage limits are set forth in Georgia’s UM statute (O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11) as follows:
(a)(1) No automobile liability policy or motor vehicle liability policy shall be issued or delivered in this state to the owner of such vehicle or shall be issued or delivered by any insurer licensed in this state upon any motor vehicle then principally garaged or principally used in this state unless it contains an endorsement or provisions undertaking to pay the insured damages for bodily injury, loss of consortium or death of an insured, or for injury to or destruction of property of an insured under the named insured’s policy sustained from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle, within limits exclusive of interests and costs which at the option of the insured shall be:
(A) Not less than $25,000.00 because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident, and, subject to such limit for one person, $50,000.00 because of bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident, and $25,000.00 because of injury to or destruction of property; or
(B) Equal to the limits of liability because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and of two or more persons in any one accident, and because of injury to or destruction of property of the insured which is contained in the insured’s personal coverage in the automobile liability policy or motor vehicle liability policy issued by the insurer to the insured if those limits of liability exceed the limits of liability set forth in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph. In any event, the insured may affirmatively choose uninsured motorist limits in an amount less than the limits of liability.By default, insurance companies must provide UM coverage in amounts no less than the liability limits of that same policy, unless the insured affirmatively chooses some lesser amount. This happens more frequently than you might suspect. In fact, you may have made such rejections without even realizing that you had done so. Many of our clients have made such rejections during a coverage conversation with their insurance agent or other insurance representative where the significance of these elections was not explained or was explained quite poorly. Only later, and after finding themselves with inadequate coverage, did they learn of this. It is important that you do not find yourself in a similar situation. Such elections that reject or reduce UM/UIM coverage must be in writing. However, once rejected or reduced, an insurance company has no obligation to reaffirm this coverage election in any supplemental or renewal policy.