Atlanta Car Accident Attorneys Explain Uninsured Motorist Claim in Light of Recent Case Decision
Montlick Injury Attorneys, Georgia’s pre-eminent car accident law firm, represents many clients who were unfairly saddled with insurmountable medical bills due to the negligence and carelessness of another. Fortunately for some, Georgia’s uninsured motorist law (OCGA §33-11-7) allows a person who suffered injuries at the hands of another person or company to seek compensation from their insurance carrier when the at-fault party does not carry enough insurance to cover the damages. Georgia’s under insurance law has averted numerous financial disasters, but when the law applies is not always clear, like when the crash victim was working at the time of the accident.
Georgia Appeals Court Ruling
A recent case decision from a Georgia Appeals Court sheds light on the subject. This decision could play a role in helping other victims find the financial relief from the damages they suffered when the offender’s insurance fails to cover the damages.
The facts of the case are straightforward. The injured person was driving a vehicle while on duty as an employee. He suffered severe injuries in the two-car crash. The other driver’s insurance paid the policy limit for liability which was $25,000. The injured man received nearly $200,000 in worker’s compensation benefits. However, the workers’ compensation paid him at a rate less than what he normally earned. Consequently, the injured party lost over $180,000 in unpaid wages.
The plaintiff lost out on collecting other damages that Georgia law awards to car accident victims. The victim, because of the low policy limits on the offending driver’s car, could not recover any compensation for lost wages or pain and suffering. Additionally, he could not collect for future medical damages due to the limitation on the workers’ compensation award.
The situation the victim found himself in was inadequate to fully compensate him for his injuries. Luckily, however, he held four uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policies from the same company – $25,000.00 per policy, $100,000.00 total. The insurance company’s contract stated that the company would pay up to the policy limits (which was $25,000 each) for uninsurance or underinsurance claims, provided that the amount shall be reduced by the amount of worker’s compensation benefits previously paid.
The insurance company’s contract language is typical in Georgia insurance contracts. The insurance company argued that the “non-duplication clause” did not allow an injured person to collect benefits for compensation already received. However, the insurance company misapplied it’s contractual language to the facts of the case.
The judges of the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff sought compensation for entire categories of damages for which he had not been already compensated under Georgia law, such as past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and additional lost wages, all damages that neither the original $25,000 settlement nor the worker’s compensation award satisfied. As such, the court held the defendant uninsured motorist carrier’s non-duplication provision unenforceable.
The court’s reasoning makes perfect sense. On the one hand, the initial settlement was wholly insufficient to compensate the victim adequately. Secondly, the victim lost money in unpaid wages from the worker’s compensation settlement. A crucial factor here is also that the Georgia workers’ compensation system does not provide for benefits for pain and suffering. Georgia law prohibits a worker from receiving compensation for pain and suffering under Georgia’ Workers’ Compensation Act – one example as to why the court ordered the insurance company to pay the policy limits of $100,000 ($25,000 for each of the four policies), to the plaintiff.