Uninsured drivers pose a serious threat to the nearly 7 million licensed motorists in Georgia and everyone else who shares our roads. In understanding what to do if you were hit by an uninsured driver in Georgia, it’s important that our Atlanta car accident lawyers first explain that like most states, we follow an at-fault of crash liability.
Unlike no-fault states, each of Georgia’s 7 million licensed motorists is required by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10 to purchase bodily injury liability insurance and property liability insurance to cover the damage they cause in a crash. Currently, minimum auto insurance rates in Georgia are set at 25/50/25 – or base line $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash in bodily injury liability coverage, plus an additional $25,000 to cover property damage.
Drivers in the nation’s dozen “no-fault” states have minimum coverage levels too, but before filing a claim with a negligent motorist’s insurer, they must first exhaust their own personal injury protection and/or medical pay benefits. Even then, some states require claimants prove their injuries meet certain statutory severity thresholds. Injured passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists may have PIP coverage of their own, but if not, can usually file a PIP claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer.
In this regard, Georgia car accident injury claims are more straightforward: The injured begin their quest for compensation with the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability policy. All Georgia drivers are mandated by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-10 Georgia drivers to carry minimum auto insurance, currently in the amounts of 25/50/25. That’s a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for any one person that driver hurts/kills, $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage total for a single crash and $25,000 to cover property damage.
But what if the motorist who caused the collision didn’t have insurance? What if he/she fled the scene and is never found? What if another driver ran you off the road or otherwise caused you to wreck, but your two vehicles never actually made contact and the driver never stopped (a so-called “phantom” car)?
Enter: Uninsured motorist coverage (UM for short) outlined in O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11.
Apolinsky & Associates’ Atlanta car accident attorneys explain to our clients they can collect UM coverage, you’ll need to prove (as you would in any Georgia crash case) the other driver was at-fault for the crash. This is established by showing he/she breached their responsibility to use reasonable care (usually by violating a traffic law), and in so doing caused the crash that in turn caused your injuries. All three points must be proven to establish negligence. Beyond that, you must also show that driver did not have insurance or has not been/cannot be identified, and the terms of your own policy require your insurer to step in and cover the damages instead.
Uninsured motorist coverage isn’t always the sole source of recovery in these cases, but it’s often the primary.
Georgia’s Uninsured Motorists Cause Millions in Damage, So Insurers Must Offer UM
The Insurance Research Council reports 14 percent of drivers nationally doesn’t have auto insurance.
The scenario of “Georgia car accident-no insurance-not at-fault” is more common than one might surmise, even considering Insurance Information Institute reports 12 percent of licensed Georgia are uninsured, lower than the national average. Yet Georgia road users face an outsized risk of uninsured drivers, thanks at least in part to what our Atlanta car accident attorneys refer to as “the Florida Factor.”
To be fair, it’s not all Florida’s fault. The Sunshine State is a prime East Coast tourist destination, and as geography would have it, huge numbers of out-of-state visitors traverse Georgia highways to get there. Georgia undeniably reaps an economic benefit from this, but it does come at a price on our roads. Beyond that, Florida itself, population 21 million-and-counting, has the No. 1 highest rate of uninsured motorists in the country – nearly 27 percent.
Georgia Code makes no mention of this, of course, but it does require every auto insurance policy sold in the state come standard with uninsured motorist coverage – at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash, the same minimum mandatory for bodily injury liability coverage. You can purchase additional UM coverage, but the law disallows UM coverage that exceeds your bodily injury liability coverage (a standard auto insurance provision no matter which state you call home).
Drivers can technically waive Georgia UM coverage in writing, but our Atlanta car accident attorneys strongly advise against it because it involves taking a huge personal risk for yourself and your passengers – one generally not worth the policy package savings.
Keep in mind: Your insurer can cancel your UM policy if you are deemed at-fault in three or more crashes in a 36-month span.
How Much Can I Collect From a Georgia UM Claim?
As far as how much one can expect to receive in an uninsured motorist coverage claim, your injury/wrongful death lawyer can give you a more precise answer based on the unique facts of the case in question.
Broadly speaking, the monetary ceiling on your UM claim depends on:
- The severity of injuries;
- The limit of the UM policy in question;
- Whether the UM insurance coverage is for excess/added-on coverage or traditional/reduced coverage.
The last point refers more to underinsured motorist coverage, wherein an at-fault driver has insurance, but it’s not enough to cover your losses. Added-on coverage allows you to collect whatever the full amount of UM/UIM coverage purchased on top of what you the at-fault driver’s insurer paid. Traditional/reduced coverage will only pay the difference after the at-fault driver’s liability/umbrella insurance coverage is exhausted.
One reason you really want an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney working for you (and to avoid trying to negotiate insurance settlements yourself) is that those limits may not be considered “exhausted” if you settle with the defendant(s) for less than the policy limits in question, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in Coker v. American Liability Ins. Co., a 2016 appeal from the U.S. District Court in Northern Georgia.
Trust the Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates to be your advocates in a personal injury claim if you are hit by an uninsured driver in Georgia.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at email@example.com.