Georgia Uninsured Motorist & Underinsured Motorist Coverage Frequently Asked Questions
There is never a good time for an accident; when one does occur, it is important to know how to navigate insurance coverages. In many cases, the financial loss suffered in terms of medical expenses, rehabilitative care, pain and suffering and property damages can be recovered from the other driver's insurance policy when the other driver caused the accident. Unfortunately, there are instances where a person is involved in an accident with a hit and run driver, the other driver has no insurance or the other driver does not have enough insurance to cover the cost of the damages caused.
Given the staggering medical costs that can accompany a serious auto accident, it is important to know where to turn. We have helped thousands of people obtain compensation from the other driver's insurance company, as well as when necessary from their own insurance policies. This is done through the use of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. At Montlick and Associates, we advise all of our clients to check their policies to make sure that they have this vital coverage. This type of coverage is designed specifically for the situation where there is no way to recover from the responsible person's insurance policy, or where the other driver does not have enough coverage to protect you. Too many at-fault drivers either don't have insurance or don't carry enough insurance coverage. At Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, we have been representing auto accident victims with uninsured and underinsured motorist claims for over 37 years. Since many people do not understand how this important coverage works, we have provided answers to commonly asked questions.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is coverage that you purchase. If you are injured in an accident and the other driver does not have insurance or enough insurance, then, your own insurance company "steps into the negligent driver's shoes" to compensate you for your injuries and damages. Georgia law requires that you always be offered uninsured/underinsured coverage by your insurance company. This type of coverage can only be denied if you sign a document refusing to buy the coverage. Too many times in our experience, the worst drivers do not have insurance because the cost of the insurance is more than they can afford to pay for. For example, if a driver has a history of accidents, speeding tickets and other traffic violations, he/she may be deemed a "high risk driver" by insurance companies. High risk drivers are usually forced to pay high premiums for less coverage, if they can afford coverage at all. In short, if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or a hit and run driver, you need to rely on your own uninsured motorist coverage for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. Recent studies indicate that as many as 33% of all vehicles on the road may be uninsured!
What is underinsured motorist coverage?
A large percentage of Georgia drivers on the road only carry the minimum insurance required by Georgia law, which is only $25,000 per person and a maximum total of $50,000 per auto accident. If you suffer serious injuries in a traffic accident, however, $25,000 in coverage can quickly be exhausted leaving you without compensation to pay for your medical expenses, rehabilitative and nursing care, and property damage, not to mention pain and suffering. Underinsured motorist insurance provides additional coverage once the "at fault" driver's policy limit is exhausted. It is not uncommon for habitually bad drivers to have only minimum coverage because their poor driving history makes additional insurance coverage too expensive to own.
How much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage do I need?
Given that one-third of all drivers may not have insurance and the enormous costs associated with catastrophic injuries including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, paralysis, or internal organ damage, it is advisable to have the maximum coverage allowed. Medical bills for such injuries can easily exceed $100,000 and can completely devastate a family financially. The maximum coverage provides assurance that if you are involved in a serious accident you will not be at the mercy of the other party's insurance policy limits. If you do not have medical coverage or perhaps are between jobs and your current medical coverage might lapse, it is crucial for you to purchase uninsured motorist coverage which is far less costly than medical insurance (but of course its limitation is that it only covers you in a car accident, not for unrelated medical expenses).
Since uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is provided by my insurance company, do I need an attorney?
Once you need to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you and your insurance company are adversaries. The objective of your insurance company, as would be the case with the other driver's insurance company, is to deny coverage to you or minimize the compensation you receive. If a case like this goes to court, your insurance company will actually step in and defend the other driver. Sometimes even your own insurance company is not on your side and will employ a team of attorneys who are charged with the task of trying to determine how to reduce the value of your claim or deny it entirely.
I heard that uninsured motorist insurance law has changed recently. How does it affect me?
Since January 1, 2009, all new automobile coverage in Georgia has included a revised form of uninsured motorist coverage known as "stacking" coverage. Stacking permits a person injured in a serious auto accident to increase the amount of uninsured motorist coverage to the full amount the injured person purchased, without an offset for the liability coverage of the at-fault driver. On policies prior to that date, the amount a person could receive from their own uninsured motorist coverage was reduced by the amount of coverage the other driver had. So, if you previously had $50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage and the other driver had $25,000 in coverage, the maximum you could receive was $50,000 whereas now you can receive the full $75,000 available under both policies. However, to take advantage of the more favorable rules, you need to do so in writing at renewal time or the old less advantageous rules will apply to you if you are involved in an accident. At Montlick and Associates, our experienced lawyers advise people to check their coverage and ask their agents or companies to provide uninsured motorist coverage under the new stacking rules.
With so many drivers having minimal or no insurance coverage, it is worth considering whether to purchase the maximum amount of uninsured motorist coverage. Some people choose not to take such coverage but regret it later if they are involved in an auto accident with a driver who does not have insurance or does not have enough coverage to pay for the damage caused by another driver's negligence. Uninsured motorist coverage is not as expensive as most other coverages, and provides "an excellent value for your premium dollar." Bear in mind that this important coverage protects you and your own family. Therefore if you cannot afford the maximum coverage, at least purchase as much UM coverage as you can afford.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured driver or one who is underinsured, call Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law for your free consultation. Our Georgia auto accident attorneys will represent your interests, fight hard for your rights, and pursue the full value of your claim from all insurance companies that provide coverage for the accident. We are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia including, but not limited to, Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. Call us today for your free consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333), or visit us on the web at www.montlick.com. No matter where you are in Georgia, we are just a phone call away and we will even come to you.