Handling the aftermath of an auto accident can be an extremely stressful experience, especially when the at-fault driver does not have enough liability insurance to cover your injuries and losses. You could try to recover compensation by filing a lawsuit against them directly. However, even if you secure a judgment against them in court, chances are they will not have sufficient assets to pay you out of pocket. In this event, you can turn to your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) insurance.
Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver in Georgia?
If you are in a car accident with an uninsured driver in Georgia, you might be able to sue for compensation. However, the at-fault driver may not have enough assets to cover your damages.
At Butler Kahn, our compassionate team of injury attorneys understands how frustrating an accident with an uninsured driver can be. Our attorneys are committed to helping injury victims throughout Georgia understand their rights and explore every option at their disposal to secure the full and fair compensation they deserve. Call us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Read on to learn more about UM/UIM coverage in Georgia.
Georgia’s Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Law
Under the terms of Georgia’s uninsured/underinsured motorists law, if you are involved in an accident in which the other driver is at fault but does not have insurance, you can use your own additional insurance coverage to pay for your costs. This is a complicated area that Butler Kahn’s attorneys can assist you in understanding. The uninsured/underinsured motorists law in Georgia can apply if:
- You are involved in an accident in which the other driver does not have his or her own insurance
- You are hit by a vehicle while riding your bicycle or as a pedestrian
- You are hit by a driver who flees the scene of the accident and is not found
You are hit by a driver who has insurance but not enough to compensate for injuries to everyone involved in the accident
Georgia’s uninsured/underinsured motorists law will cover not only you, as the driver of the other vehicle, but others involved in the accident including:
- Your spouse who lives with you
- Relatives of you or your spouse who live with you
- A guest who is a passenger in your car
- Anyone who is driving your insured vehicle with your consent
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Statistics
An insurance industry study recently found that 13% of all drivers in the United States are driving without liability insurance. While the problem of uninsured drivers is nationwide, it is a bigger problem in some states than in others. Only 4.5% of drivers in Maine are uninsured, while 26.7% of drivers in Florida have no liability insurance. The states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers, after Florida, are:
- New Mexico
While New Hampshire does not require most drivers to carry liability insurance, only 9.9% of New Hampshire drivers are uninsured. By contrast, about 12% of Georgia drivers and 15% of California drivers are uninsured. Though it is illegal to drive without auto insurance, many drivers are undeterred. According to data from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), about one in eight motorists nationwide (12.6 percent) had no auto insurance in 2019. At 12.4 percent, the rate of uninsured drivers was not much better within Georgia. Because most uninsured motorists do not have enough assets to compensate you out of pocket for your injuries and losses, being struck by one of these drivers can result in an enormous headache. The IRC also reports that insured drivers across the country paid over $13 billion in premiums for UM/UIM coverage in 2016. Further, motorists who violate state insurance requirements raised premium costs by approximately $78 per insured vehicle for drivers who do comply with the law.
What are the Liability Insurance Requirements in Georgia?
Nearly all states require drivers to purchase minimum levels of liability insurance before operating a vehicle within their borders. In Georgia, the legal minimums break down as follows:
- $25,000 per person in bodily injury liability coverage
- $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage
- $25,000 per accident in property damage liability coverage
Drivers may purchase more coverage if they choose. However, liability insurance only pays for crash-related injuries and losses suffered by another driver, not policyholders themselves. So, if you choose to purchase only state-mandated liability coverage, you could be left with the short end of the stick when involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Underinsured Drivers in Georgia
State laws that require drivers to carry liability insurance impose a minimum amount of coverage that drivers must purchase. Laws generally require one amount of bodily injury coverage for an injury to one person and a higher collective amount for injuries to more than one person. Most states also require a minimum amount of property damage insurance. For example, Georgia requires drivers to purchase at least $25,000 of bodily injury coverage for an accident that injures a single victim, $50,000 of total bodily injury coverage for all the victims of a single accident, and $25,000 to cover property damage claims. Insurance agents refer to the Georgia minimum as 25/50/25 coverage. Some states, like Florida (10/20/10) require lower coverage limits. Some states, like Maine (50/100/25) require higher limits. Regardless of state law, drivers should generally purchase as much insurance as they can afford. A traffic accident that causes a serious injury might easily result in a judgment against the responsible driver for more than $100,000. Drivers place their assets at risk if they are held responsible for compensation of $100,000 but only have $25,000 of insurance coverage.
Is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Required in Georgia?
Most of us do not wake up expecting to be involved in an accident. Nor do we enjoy paying monthly bills for something we hope never to use. Even so, it is best to prepare in advance than be left high and dry when an unexpected accident occurs. Therefore, though they are not legally required to do so, all drivers should seriously consider including UM/UIM coverage as part of their auto insurance. If you borrow money to purchase a car, it is also worth noting that many lenders require UM/UIM insurance while you work on paying off the loan. Though customers are free to decline, state law obligates insurance providers to offer UM/UIM coverage in amounts equal to the customer’s liability coverage when they purchase a new auto insurance policy. Customers can then choose lower coverage levels or reject the offer altogether, but they must do so affirmatively in writing. The rule does not apply when the customer renews an old policy. Accident victims who are injured by the negligence of uninsured drivers can sue the driver for compensation, but most uninsured drivers have few assets that can be used to satisfy a judgment. After all, if they had assets to protect, they would probably buy insurance. Since they are “judgment proof,” they might ignore a judgment for damages or discharge it in bankruptcy. The best way to protect yourself from uninsured drivers is to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. When the driver who is responsible for an accident is uninsured (or if the accident is caused by a hit-and-run driver), the injured driver can bring a claim for compensation against the driver’s own insurance company, up to the limits of the uninsured motorist coverage that the injured driver purchased. Drivers assure themselves that funds will be available to cover their lost wages, medical expenses, and other losses by purchasing uninsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage helps injured drivers who deserve compensation that exceeds the responsible driver’s insurance limits. For example, if an injured driver should receive $40,000 as full compensation but the responsible driver’s bodily injury limits are $25,000, the injured driver’s underinsured motorist coverage will pay the difference. About twenty states require drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage. A few states also require drivers to purchase underinsured motorist coverage. The goal of those states is to assure that injured drivers do not need to rely on public services if they become destitute after an accident. It is usually wise to purchase the same limits for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as the policy’s bodily injury limits. Insurance companies will not generally sell higher limits for uninsured/underinsured coverage than the liability limits that the policyholder purchases. One advantage of having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is that a driver’s own insurance company, unlike other insurance companies, has a duty to negotiate a settlement in good faith. An injury victim’s personal injury lawyer, like a car accident lawyer Atlanta, GA trusts, will often encounter less resistance when negotiating a settlement that must be paid by the injury victim’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, as opposed to settling with another driver’s insurance company.
What Does Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover?
As the names suggest, UM/UIM motorist coverage kicks in when you are involved in a crash with someone who does not have the liability insurance necessary to cover your injuries and losses when that driver causes an accident. If they simply have insufficient coverage, your UIM insurance will come into play. If the have no coverage at all, your UM insurance will. These forms of insurance normally cover the same things that your own liability insurance would cover for another driver if you had caused an accident. It is important to read your UM/UIM policy carefully to see exactly what coverage you are entitled to. It may include things like:
- Medical bills
- Lost income due to your injuries
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Wrongful death
- Property damage repair or replacement
Notably, if you were injured in a hit-and-run accident and the at-fault driver cannot be found, insurance companies normally process your claim as though the driver were uninsured.
How Much UM/UIM Coverage Should I Purchase?
All insurance acts as a financial safety net, and UM/UIM insurance is no exception. Even if you are never involved in an accident, it at least provides some peace of mind. Ultimately, how much coverage is appropriate will vary from person to person depending on how much security they would like given their unique circumstances. For example, you are more likely to encounter an uninsured driver on the road if you commute to work every day on a major interstate. Therefore, it is probably in your best interest to purchase more UM/UIM coverage. By contrast, someone living in a rural area who rarely travels far from home may feel comfortable purchasing less. No matter how much coverage you choose, do not forget that insurance companies are legally required to offer UM/UIM coverage to customers when they first purchase their liability insurance policy. The UM/UIM offered must be at least equal to the customer’s chosen liability coverage. In other words, if the customer chooses to purchase only the legal minimums discussed above, the insurer must expressly offer to sell UM/UIM coverage in corresponding amounts. The customer may then opt for less or none at all. If they choose to purchase more than the mandatory minimums, the UM/UIM coverage offered must go up too.
Options for Covering Your Damages by an Uninsured Motorist
If an uninsured driver caused your car accident, you may have several options to cover your financial losses, such as:
Uninsured or Underinsured Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are hit by a driver who does not have any liability insurance. It provides compensation for the damage to your vehicle and injuries to you and your passengers. It is part of your own insurance policy. Underinsured motorist coverage protects you in the event that you are hit by a driver who causes damages that exceed his or her liability limit.
You may have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage that pays for your injuries and those of your passengers, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. You can make a claim under your PIP coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses, if applicable.
If you have “full coverage,” you can make a claim against the collision portion of your insurance policy. Your insurance company can take care of your damages and then pursue reimbursement from the at-fault party. You will have to pay your deductible, but the insurance company may be able to refund this amount to you later.
You may be able to cover your medical expenses by using your own health insurance.
Sue the At-Fault Driver
If you are injured because of the negligent actions of another driver, you have a right to sue the driver for the full amount of your financial damages. However, if the driver was not responsible enough to carry minimum liability coverage, he or she may not have sufficient assets to cover your damages. Talk to an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer to determine if this option is worthwhile.
Look for Other Defendants
There may be other parties that may share in the liability for the accident. For example, a third vehicle may have been involved. The driver may have been working at the time of the accident and the employer may be liable. An experienced Georgia auto accident lawyer can explore other options for recovery. If you’ve been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney from the Butler Kahn may be able to help. Call for a free consultation.
File an Uninsured Driver Claim Through a Reputable Attorney
In other situations, it’s vital to take legal action with a reputable, experienced Georgia attorney. If your vehicle has significant damage, your medical bills are high, and you’re dealing with pain, suffering, or other losses stemming from the crash, it can be necessary to file a lawsuit against the uninsured driver to guarantee they’ll in some way, shape, or form be responsible to pay for the damages. Your ability to file a lawsuit will vary depending on where you live. If you live in a no-fault car insurance state, filing a lawsuit isn’t always an option unless you have suffered serious injuries or have incurred medical bills over a certain, set amount. Luckily, Georgia is not a no-fault car insurance state, which means that when you work with a reputable, hardworking, experienced attorney who is prepared to build your case, your odds are typically much higher that you will win your case. Unfortunately, most people who drive without insurance or are underinsured won’t have significant assets or income—even if you’re successful in proving that the other, uninsured or underinsured driver was at fault for the accident. And oftentimes, that means trying to collect from that uninsured driver can be a losing battle. But, when you work with an experienced attorney who has the knowledge to guide you through the process while taking your case and building it for trial, you have a much better chance of collecting what’s owed.
Contact an Uninsured Motorist Accident Attorney Today
Being injured in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver can be extremely frustrating. Sadly, many accident victims in this situation are left with more questions than answers. The best thing to do in this scenario is consult with an auto accident attorney early on to make sure you know your rights and do not overlook any potential sources of compensation. The compassionate injury attorneys at Butler Kahn are ready to answer any questions you may have, make sure you know your rights, and help you explore your options. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.