According to the Insurance Information Institute, an estimated 13% of motor vehicle operators in the United States were uninsured in 2015. This means that about one in every eight drivers were uninsured that year, and in Georgia specifically, an estimated 12% of drivers in our state were uninsured.
These statistics are relevant to every driver, because Georgia is considered an “at-fault” state. Meaning, Georgia law requires drivers to carry insurance to cover damages caused by them, but if an at fault driver has no insurance and doesn’t have any assets that can be used to pay for damages, you as the other driver could be left with no one to compensate you for your injuries.
What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance?
Under O.C.G.A. §33-7-11 (A)(1)(a), motor vehicle owners and operators are required to carry $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 in bodily injury (BI) liability coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage liability insurance coverage per accident. The insurance required by law is meant to compensate another driver for injuries and property damage if you cause an accident. When you are involved in an accident that was caused by another driver who doesn’t have insurance, you can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver.
However, the problem that most people have is that a driver, who doesn’t have insurance, normally doesn’t have any assets that can be liquidated and used to pay for damages awarded in a lawsuit. These individuals are usually referred to as “judgement proof.” Due to this, many drivers will elect to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on their insurance policy in order to protect themselves in the event of being involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.
What Does Uninsured Motorist Insurance Cover?
UM coverage, like other types of auto insurance, has limits, and your insurance company must offer UM coverage with limits that are at least identical to the minimum limits required by law for all drivers, if you elect to carry it. This means means your uninsured motorist policy could cover:
- $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability insurance coverage per accident
There are insurance companies that allow drivers to carry UM with higher limits, but they cannot exceed the maximum policy limits you carry on your car, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(a)(1)(B). For example, if you carried insurance with a limit of $50,000 in BI coverage per person, you could not carry 100,000 in bodily injury UM coverage per person.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance vs Underinsured Motorist Coverage
There is a difference between an uninsured motorist, a driver with no insurance at all, and an underinsured motorist, a driver that does not have enough insurance to cover all of your damages. However, when your UM limits exceed the BI limits of the at-fault driver, your UM insurance will pay the difference between your UM policy and the at-fault driver’s BI policy, which is why UM coverage is also referred to as UIM, underinsured motorist, coverage.
For example, You are involved in an accident while carrying $50,000 in UM bodily injury coverage per person, and the at-fault driver only carries $25,000 in BI coverage per person. Your UM insurance will pay the difference, $25,000, between your UM bodily injury coverage and the at-fault driver’s BI coverage, in addition to the $25,000 that is paid out by the at-fault driver’s insurance. The type of UM coverage in this example is known as “traditional” or “offset” UM coverage. However, if you were only carrying $25,000 in UM bodily injury coverage in the above example, your UM coverage wouldn’t cover anything, because the difference between your UM coverage and the at-fault driver’s BI coverage is zero.
What is Stacked Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
In contrast, “stacked” or “add on” uninsured motorist coverage would give you access to the full amount of your UM coverage and the at-fault driver’s insurance, if the driver was underinsured. Using our same example, if you are carrying $50,000 in stacked UM bodily injury coverage per person and the at-fault driver is carrying $25,000 in BI coverage per person at the time of the accident, you would have access to $75,000 worth of insurance coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Attorney in Atlanta, GA
Understanding how uninsured motorist insurance works in Georgia can be difficult, which is why you should always hire an experienced uninsured motorist attorney to guide through the claims process. At Cambre and Associates, our team of uninsured motorist attorneys are dedicated to protecting your financial interests after a car accident. So call our office today for a free consultation.