Whose insurance pays for a car accident in Georgia?

This is another common question and another good one. Usually, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay first. But it can depend on a few factors.

Generally, the auto insurer of the at-fault driver must pay for the injuries of the person who was not at fault, as well as for the damage to that person’s car. But the at-fault driver’s insurance company will only pay up to the limits of that policy, which could be as low as $25,000 in Georgia. If your injuries or damages are severe enough to go over those insurance policy limits, then another insurance policy may kick in. If the at-fault driver has any additional liability insurance—like an umbrella insurance policy—then that additional “layer” of insurance should pay next.  But umbrella policies are rare.

Sometimes, there may be additional insurance coverage for the vehicle that caused the accident. If the accident was caused by an Uber or Lyft driver, for instance, additional coverage usually applies. If the accident was caused by a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle, the trucking company generally has insurance policies with higher limits, which will be a good thing if you or a loved one was seriously injured.

More often, underinsured motorist or uninsured motorist insurance (commonly called “UM”) pays next. This can be your insurance company or the insurance company of a person who lives with you and is related to you (the law uses the term “resident relative”).  Many people have UM insurance and don’t even realize it. Your UM insurance limits could be as high as your liability insurance limits. Determining how much UM insurance you have usually requires looking at a piece of paperwork called a “declarations page.” Even if you were told that you have “full coverage,” that doesn’t actually tell you what dollar amount of insurance is available—you need to see the declarations page.

Finding out how much insurance is out there isn’t always easy. Often, discovering the available insurance requires sending what motor vehicle crash lawyers call a “letter of representation” coupled with an official request for insurance information under Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28. Other times, it may be necessary to file a case with a court before you can discover all the available insurance. For instance, it is often necessary to file a case with a court in order to find out if the at-fault driver had any resident relatives whose auto insurance policies may provide coverage. Whether the insurers of the at-fault driver’s resident relatives provide coverage for the car accident usually depends on the fine print in their insurance policies.

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