You buy car insurance and assume that, if you get into a wreck, the insurance company will pay for the losses and you will be right back where you started. Unfortunately, that outcome does not always happen. Even though you paid premiums month after month, you might find yourself short by thousands of dollars after the insurance company has paid its share. Below, we discuss Georgia car insurance and how it works after an accident.
How Your “Full Coverage” Does Not Fully Cover You
The liability insurance portion of your car insurance in Georgia only covers the claims other people make against your policy if you cause an accident. If someone else is at fault, you have to rely on that driver’s liability insurance. In this situation, you could have unpaid losses if:
- The negligent driver was uninsured. You can buy “add-on” coverage with your auto policy to provide some help paying your damages if an uninsured driver causes the wreck, but only to the limits of that add-on insurance.
- The negligent driver was underinsured. If someone carries only the minimum amount of liability insurance required by Georgia law, those insurance proceeds could be woefully inadequate to pay your losses in the event of a significant accident.
What You Should Know About Uninsured Motorist Coverage
It is against the law to drive a motor vehicle in Georgia without insurance, but the reality is that people do so every day, so you need to protect yourself. It might not seem fair to have to pay for coverage in case you cause a crash and buy additional coverage in case some uninsured person runs into you, but life is not always fair, and you have to plan for the worst.
If an uninsured person causes an accident, he can get a ticket and have to pay a fine, but the law does not make him pay your property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other losses. If you take the uninsured driver to court, you might win the case, but not collect anything. A person who does not buy car insurance is unlikely to have substantial assets to pay for the harm they cause in a significant crash.
Georgia law requires your insurance company to offer you uninsured coverage as an add-on to your auto policy. You are not forced to buy uninsured coverage, but if you decide not to buy the extra coverage, you must reject it in writing.
How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works
If an uninsured driver causes an accident and you have uninsured motorist coverage on your policy, your extra coverage will “step into the shoes” of the uninsured driver. Your add-on coverage can pay your medical bills and the cost to repair or replace your car and other damaged personal property.
You want to make sure that your uninsured policy is enough to pay for all of your losses in a significant wreck. Taking the lowest possible policy limits for your add-on coverage can mean that you will have to pay some of your losses out of your own pocket.
Let’s say that your uninsured coverage pays $10,000 in property damage and $10,000 for one person in personal injury, which includes medical bills and death benefits. Those policy limits might be adequate for a minor fender bender, but with a significant crash, you would only have $10,000 to buy a new car, and your medical bills could exceed $10,000. You would be stuck with any losses over the policy limits.
Insurance and Hit and Run Accidents
Georgia law treats hit and run drivers as uninsured motorists. You do not have the driver, so you do not have access to proceeds from their insurance coverage. As a result, your uninsured coverage can protect you from financial losses in the event of a hit and run accident.
How Underinsured Coverage Works
You must maintain at least the minimum required amount of liability coverage on your vehicle to drive in Georgia. The minimum required coverage for automobiles is:
- $25,000 bodily injury per person
- $50,000 total bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 property damage per accident
While the minimum coverage might look sufficient at first glance, the actual losses in a wreck can easily exceed this amount of coverage. Let’s say that a driver with the minimum coverage causes a three-car crash. Four people get hurt, and all three vehicles are a total loss.
Dividing the “total bodily injury” policy limits of $50,000 per occurrence gives only $12,500 per injured person. The emergency room bill alone could exceed $12,500. The $25,000 of coverage for total property damage per occurrence does not cover the at-fault driver’s vehicle, but the two other cars have to split this coverage, leaving only $12,500 for each of the innocent drivers to buy new cars.
Liability insurance does not care if your injuries cost $12,500 or $40,000. The insurer will only pay up to the policy limits.
If you buy the optional underinsured coverage, it can pay for losses that the at-fault driver’s policy does not cover. For example, if you have $50,000 in property damage coverage on your underinsured add-on, the at-fault driver’s policy would pay up to policy limits (in this example, $12,500) and your underinsured coverage would pay the remaining losses, up to the policy limits.
How to Get Help After a Car Accident in Georgia
A car accident lawyer at S. Burke Law can help you figure out the insurance issues and go after compensation for your losses. We will work hard to get you all the money damages you deserve. Call us today at 404-842-7838 for a free consultation.