Georgia law requires that all motorists have automobile insurance, but not all do. Of those that do have auto insurance, many purchase the minimum liability limits to meet the state requirements. Even more drivers are underinsured and carry significantly less liability limits to protect the victims of an accident caused by their negligence.
In the State of Georgia, motorists are required to carry liability coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This is the minimum limits you can obtain on an auto insurance policy in the State. Having this coverage means, that if you cause an accident, the most the insurance company will pay to one person is $25,000, regardless of the severity of their injuries – up to $50,000 per accident, regardless of the number of people injured or the severity of their injuries.
In today’s world, the only way to truly protect yourself in an accident that is not your fault, is to obtain uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance from your auto insurance policy.
What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage?
It is easy to justify the need for adding uninsured motorist insurance coverage to your auto insurance policy when about 10% of all vehicles on the roads are uninsured. This puts everyone at a higher risk of being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
The most common instances where an at-fault driver is uninsured are:
- Hit and run accidents
- Knowingly driving without insurance on a vehicle
- Knowingly or unknowingly driving with an auto insurance policy that has lapsed for non-payment
- Knowingly or unknowingly driving with an auto insurance policy that has been cancelled
- The at fault driver is specifically excluded from the liability insurance policy on the vehicle, or
- During the investigation of a car accident claim, the at-fault driver fails to cooperate with the insurance company. In this instance, the insurance company can withdraw their coverage which leads to the driver effectively being uninsured.
If you involved in an accident with a driver who does not have valid liability insurance, they are uninsured. If this happens, you could be stuck with some hefty out-of-pocket expenses such as repair bills, medical bills or health insurance deductibles.
Uninsured motorist insurance will pay for:
- Damage to your vehicle
- Medical bills
- Lost wages if you are unable to work because of the accident
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses, and more.
What is Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage?
If you do end up adding uninsured motorist insurance coverage to your auto policy, then you automatically receive underinsured motorist coverage as well. This coverage is similar to uninsured motorist coverage, yet slightly different.
Underinsured motorist coverage protects you when you are involved in an accident with someone who does not have sufficient insurance to cover your damages and injuries. After an accident, the insurance company for the at-fault driver is supposed to compensate you for your damages and injuries. If, however, the at-fault driver’s liability limits are below the cost of your damages and injuries, then they are considered an underinsured motorist.
This is where you want underinsured motorist insurance coverage on your auto policies. For example, let’s say you are involved in an accident. The at-fault driver has the state minimum policy limits of $25,000. But the total value of your claims is $75,000. If you have an underinsured motorist coverage policy of $100,000, then you can claim the balance of $50,000 against your insurance company – up to the limits of your policy.
Types of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
There are two types of uninsured (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage: Add-On and Reduced.
Add-On coverage means that the additional coverage you purchased will be “added-on” to the existing coverage provided by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, if any. Reduced coverage means that the additional coverage you purchased will be “reduced” or subtracted from the existing coverage provided by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, if any. Reduced coverage is the most common form of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you do not specifically request “Add-On” coverage, then you will be provided a policy with “reduced” coverage.
In Georgia, it is preferred to obtain “add-on” coverage as this ensures you have the maximum coverage possible.
How to Best Use Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
The most common use of uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage comes in the form of a property damage settlement. After an accident, your vehicle needs to be repaired. If the at-fault driver is not insured, then your insurance company will pay for the entire repair or replacement. If the at-fault driver is underinsured, then your insurance company will pay for the difference in the repairs or replacement after taking into account the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage.
Secondly, after an accident you may experience injuries which can lead to medical expenses, health insurance deductible payments, lost income, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and other expenses or costs.
Who is Covered by Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage?
By adding this coverage to your auto insurance policies, you provide additional protection to your:
- Relatives living in your household
- Anyone who drove your car with your express or implied permission
- Anyone who riding in your car as a passenger.
Given the fact that there may be more than one person in your car at the time of an accident, it is always a good idea to carry more than the minimum liability limits and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If the injuries to yourself or others are serious, then UM/UIM insurance limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident will likely be inadequate.
Why Add UM/UIM Coverage?
Smokey the Bear is famous for saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” In the same way, “Only you can protect yourself from uninsured and underinsured motorist.”
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that was not your fault and the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you will be left with no other choice but to pay for all of the expenses caused by the accident. You never want to find yourself in this position, especially when the accident was not your fault.
The purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to provide a guarantee that there will be some level of insurance available if you are not at fault for a car accident. What you are really buying is peace of mind. And the price tag of this form of peace of mind is very affordable compared to the hefty out-of-pocket expenses and bills that come after an accident.
How Much Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage Do I Need?
It is always better to be over-insured rather than underinsured. An additional $25,000 in UM/UIM coverage may seem like a lot of money. But ask yourself how much is an additional $25,000 going to be worth when a single MRI at the hospital can cost up to $9,000. Ultimately, you should consult with your insurance agent to check what best fits your personal and financial circumstance. If you ever need a referral to a trusted insurance agent, the staff at Georgia Trial Attorneys has countless trusted advisors. We would be more than happy to make a referral.
Get Help from a Georgia Uninsured and Underinsured Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by an uninsured or underinsured motorist in Georgia, the experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at Georgia Trial Attorneys can answer all of your questions. We understand how frustrating and difficult these claims and cases can be. If there is even the slightest possibility that the at-fault driver is either uninsured or underinsured, you need a lawyer to fight for you and your family. We are here to help.
If you live in any of the Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Norcross, Savannah, Valdosta metro areas, or anywhere in between, and are looking for the best uninsured and underinsured motorist attorney around, call 833-4TheWin to schedule your FREE consultation today!