Georgia Personal Injury Trial Attorneys

Understanding Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

By: Fry | Goehring

uninsured motorist coverage

Whether you are driving to work, going shopping, picking up your kids from school, or running errands in town, you are likely to run into motorists on Georgia roadways driving with little or no auto insurance.

According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), roughly one in seven drivers (14% of motorists) operated vehicles without insurance in 2022. This makes it necessary for motorists to know how uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist insurance coverage works in Georgia in the event of car accidents. IRC cited high inflation, personal income declines, and Americans driving fewer miles as the main reasons why motorists opted to suspend paying for mandatory auto insurance liability coverage.

Most motorists in Georgia likely know little about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. As a driver in Georgia, you must carry liability insurance coverage to pay for damages others suffer if you are at fault for a car accident. But what happens if you are involved in an accident with a driver without insurance? That’s where UM and UIM coverage come in.

Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage can make a significant difference in the outcome of an accident in which the other driver responsible for your injuries and damages is uninsured. If you or your passengers have been involved in a car wreck caused by an uninsured driver, it’s crucial to understand how UM/UIM coverage works and how these policies can affect your car accident insurance claim.

How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works

Picture this: you are involved in a motor vehicle crash that wasn’t your fault — Georgia is an at-fault state. In most circumstances, you would file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer to recover compensation for damages such as your medical bills and lost wages. You won’t incur any out-of-pocket expenses for your injuries or losses.

But what if the motorist who sideswiped you on an Atlanta highway doesn’t have auto insurance or doesn’t have enough of it? Minimum liability insurance requirements in Georgia don’t always offer adequate coverage for damages that injured victims incur after accidents.

If the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, you may be unable to make a liability claim against them. That’s when your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage activates. You can file a claim using your own UM/UIM insurance policy to secure compensation after an accident. UM and UIM motorist coverage can protect your finances in such circumstances.

Benefits of Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Liability insurance covers damage you cause to other drivers, passengers, and their vehicles. In Georgia, liability insurance also includes optional UM and UIM insurance coverage to protect you when an uninsured or underinsured driver causes an accident. Some of the types of liability coverage available for motorists in Georgia include:

Liability CoverageDefinition
Bodily injuryInjuries the at-fault driver causes
Property damageDamage the at-fault driver causes to your property or vehicle
Uninsured motoristProtects you when the other driver has no insurance
Underinsured motoristProtects you when the other driver doesn’t have enough auto insurance coverage

If you are involved in a car crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver, they may not have the money to pay for your medical bills and other damages. Having UM/UIM coverage can protect you in such situations. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can pay for:

  • You and your passengers’ medical bills
  • Car repairs
  • Replacement of your damaged or totaled vehicle
  • Pain and suffering costs
  • Out-of-pocket costs
  • Lost wages

Situations Covered by UM/UIM Insurance

If you sustain injuries in an Atlanta car crash caused by a motorist who doesn’t have liability insurance, your UM/UIM insurance coverage can pay for your medical expenses. This coverage also applies to passengers injured in a policyholder’s vehicle. UM/UIM insurance coverage applies to other multiple situations, including:

  • Hit-and-run accidents
  • Accidents caused by phantom drivers — eyewitnesses are required to corroborate these claims
  • Accidents where the at-fault driver can’t pay for all of the victim’s damages
  • Accidents where the at-fault driver’s insurance company denies coverage
  • Accidents where the at-fault driver’s insurance company is insolvent
  • Accidents where the at-fault driver and their employer are immune from liability

How UI/UIM Coverage Applies To Hit-And-Run Accidents

A hit-and-run accident occurs when a driver flees the scene of an accident without exchanging contact or insurance information. These types of accidents typically involve two or more vehicles, a car and a pedestrian, or a car and property, such as a mailbox. Some of the reasons a driver may leave the scene of an accident in Georgia include:

  • Impaired driving
  • Revoked or suspended license
  • Uninsured or underinsured vehicle
  • Stolen or unregistered vehicle
  • Illegal immigrant status
  • Possession of weapons or illegal drugs
  • Parole violations or outstanding warrants

You should contact the police if you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident. Law enforcement officers will investigate your case and look for the driver who fled the scene of the accident. If the driver is caught, you can file an insurance claim with their insurer to recover compensation for damages. However, this isn’t always feasible, and at some point, the investigation may simply go “cold” with no viable leads.

If the driver isn’t caught and held financially liable for your damages, your uninsured motorist coverage can pay for your crash-related medical bills. In the event your insurance company has already covered your compensation and the driver is caught, they will use a legal process called subrogation to recover the money they paid you from the at-fault driver and their insurance provider.

In the event you are involved in a hit-and-run accident, here’s what you should do:

  • Call 911
  • Note the make, model, and color of the vehicle
  • Capture the vehicle’s license plate
  • Talk to eyewitnesses
  • Don’t chase the driver — this puts you and other road users in danger
  • Note the direction the vehicle is heading

State Requirements and Regulations for UM/UIM Coverage

Georgia maintains a 25/50/25 mandatory liability coverage for auto insurance policies. This implies that for one to drive on the state’s public roads and highways, they must have at least $25,000 coverage per person, $50,000 coverage per accident, and $25,000 for property damage liability per accident. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in penalties such as fines, vehicle suspension, and license suspension.

Following an Atlanta car accident, an auto insurance policyholder with uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage must have been legally driving a vehicle at the time of the crash to be eligible for UM/UIM benefits. Additionally, the driver must not be at fault for the accident to qualify for uninsured motorist coverage.

If an uninsured or underinsured driver injures the policyholder, they may file a claim with their insurance carrier for uninsured accident benefits. The insurer will investigate the claim and pay the policyholder the benefits they are entitled to if the claim is valid.

Under Georgia’s uninsured motorist coverage laws, an uninsured motorist’s insurance company may face penalties for bad faith refusal to settle a claim. These penalties include:

  • Payment of a penalty of up to 25% of the recovery
  • Payment of all reasonable attorney fees for the prosecution of the case
  • Payment of the policyholder’s actual damages plus interest

It is important to note that UM/UIM policyholders must give timely notice to their carrier as per the terms of their insurance contract, which generally is “as soon as possible” or “as soon as practicable.” This is subject to factual determination by a jury. Georgia insurance laws also require insurers to pay valid claims within 60 days of such claims being made. Refusal to pay within this period amounts to bad faith by the insurance company.

Georgia law also allows drivers to purchase stacked or unstacked uninsured motorist coverage. Stacked insurance allows plaintiffs to combine limits for multiple policies, offering greater protection if you are involved in a car crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Unstacked insurance, on the other hand, is standard coverage that doesn’t combine coverages across policies. This coverage will only pay an award up to the UM/UIM coverage limits listed on your policy.

How an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Can Help With UM/UIM Insurance Claims

Receiving compensation for damages after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver can be difficult. Insurance companies will look for ways to limit or deny your claim. If you need help recovering compensation from your insurance company, you can rely on the guidance of our experienced car accident attorneys to:

  • Visit the scene of the accident
  • Contact witnesses for statements
  • Gather and analyze police and accident reports
  • Enlist accident reconstruction specialists
  • Keep you updated with the progress of your case
  • File all necessary paperwork on time
  • Handle all communication with relevant parties on your behalf
  • Take your case to trial, if necessary

Legal Help and Representation After an Accident With an Unlicensed Driver

Ultimately, no one can control when a car crash happens or who is behind the wheel of the other car. Ideally, the other driver should have a valid license and be fully insured with the appropriate auto liability coverage. In the real world, however, this isn’t always the case. If you have been injured in a car accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your insurance claim and compensation options. At Fry | Goehring, our lawyers know how to find all available compensation options for your UM/UIM claim. Call our Atlanta lawyers at 404-969-1284 now or contact us online to schedule your free case review. Our legal team is ready to answer your questions and guide you through the claims process.