I have represented a number of injured folks who thought that they never had a case because they were injured in a hit and run. They thought that because the at-fault driver was nowhere to be found, that they therefore couldn’t get financial compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. After meeting with me and understanding their options, they quickly realized that they did in fact have a case and could collect.
In Georgia, if you’re injured in a motor vehicle crash or are walking as a pedestrian and you get hit by a vehicle, and the other driver drives away, or the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you can still recover for your injuries. Uninsured (“UM”) or underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage can help you with your injuries when there is a crash and the other driver is legally responsible for causing the crash but is considered “uninsured” or “underinsured.”
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage or Underinsured Motorist Coverage
An uninsured driver is someone who did not have any insurance at the time of the crash, had insurance that did not meet Georgia’s state-mandated minimum liability requirements – which is $25,000 per person per accident – or was a hit-and-run driver who fled the scene. An underinsured driver is someone who met the minimum legal responsibility requirements (so he had at least $25,000 in coverage), but he did not have payment limits high enough to cover your medical bills, injuries, wages etc. When this happens, your UIM insurance will step up and pay for the balance of your medical bills, injuries, wages etc.
Uninsured/Underinsured UM/UIM insurance is not mandatory in Georgia, though it certainly should be. It is essential that you have this added to your insurance because if you get into an collision with someone who is driving without insurance or doesn’t have enough of it, you want to be made financially whole again. It could pay your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If someone hits you or your car and is legally responsible for the damages, you won’t get any money from them if they don’t have money to give you. You have to protect yourself fiscally and physically, and UM/UIM motorist protection can help you do that. As a rule of thumb, you want to pick an amount of coverage that you feel will adequately protect you.
How Do You Know If You Have UM Insurance
Despite the need for it, few people I meet with have ever heard of the coverage and even if they have heard of it, they don’t know if they have it. Formally writing to your insurance company and citing the correct Georgia Code Section, will ensure that you are provided a “Declarations Page” from your insurance carrier. The Declarations Page identifies the insurance and the limits of the insurance that the person has.
What Is the Cost For This Insurance And Who Does It Protect
UM insurance is cheap. Adding uninsured/underinsured motorist protection to your car insurance policy, especially considering the amount of protection it offers, is not only a minimal cost, it is a smart decision as it protects you in the event you’re injured in any of the above ways. (If you really want to, you can actually tie your UM/UIM coverage to your umbrella policy though that can get expensive.)
Another good feature about UM coverage is that it covers you even if you get into an accident in someone else’s car. So, even if you are a passenger in your friend’s car and you’re injured in a collision, your UM will cover you. Another solid feature of it, is it should cover your family members who live with you so if you have a child or a spouse who is injured, your UM insurance may protect them too. (You need to carefully read your policy to see if there are any exclusions and also to determined how it is drafted.)
Add On UM Coverage VS Traditional UM Coverage
Now that you’ve decided that you want and should have this protection you need to decide how much of it you want and whether you want Excess or Added On Coverage or Traditional Coverage. In 2008 the Georgia General Assembly passed a law which requires your automobile insurance carrier to provide revised Uninsured Motorist Coverage unless you reject this coverage in writing. There are now two types of UM insurance available to purchase – “Add On UM” which provides protection above the at-fault driver’s liability limits, and “Traditional UM” which unlike Add On UM, is not added on top of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. This means Traditional UM will allow you to collect from the at-fault driver and your carrier combined, up to the limit of your Traditional UM whereas with Add On UM, you have extra coverage available. To help explain, let’s look at some examples:
Example 1: let’s say you are injured in a motorcycle wreck and the at-fault driver has $25,000 in insurance. And let’s say that you have Traditional UM of $25,000. The maximum amount of insurance available to pay for your medical bills, your treatments, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering is $25,000; not $50,000. Why? Because you take the at- fault driver’s liability insurance ($25,000 in this example) and you subtract that amount from your UM insurance ($25,000). The result is $0. Now let’s use the same example and say that you have Add On UM of $25,000. In that event you would have $50,000 in insurance available to pay for your treatments, pain etc. Why? Because you add the at-fault driver’s liability insurance to your UM insurance.
Example 2: let’s say you are injured in a serious car wreck, and the other driver has $50,000 in liability limits. And let’s say you have $250,000 in Traditional UM. You would have a total of $200,000 of UM insurance available. You first collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance and then you collect the $200,000 from your insurance. Using the same example, if the at-fault driver has $50,000 in liability limits and you have $250,000 in Add on UM, you have $250,000 in UM available.
Example 3: let’s say you have $25,000 in Traditional UM and the at fault driver has the minimum liability limits of $25,000, you have $0 in Traditional UM to go after. But if you have $25,000 in Add On UM then you have $25,000 in Add On UM and a total of $50,000 in available coverage.
Remember though, no matter whether you have purchased Add On or Traditional UM insurance, if there is sufficient insurance available from the at-fault driver to cover your injuries and make you whole, you don’t ever get to use your UM insurance. And from a logical view, if you’re injured in a hit and run, then it doesn’t matter which UM you have because the at fault driver is gone so you have the full amount of your UM to help you.
If you have specific questions or you have been injured in a hit and run, or you’re not sure what sort of insurance is out there to cover you, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. This is a complicated matter as you can stack policies on top of each other and pursue other insurance as well. Needless to say, if you have been injured, you want to make sure you have the maximum insurance available to you. Speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney will help you achieve that.
UM/UIM coverage is probably the best value you can get in car insurance. As you mention, it is very cheap but can be critical in recovering for an injured party. Here in Texas there are a lot of uninsured drivers and our state minimum is so low pretty much everybody drives underinsured.
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