Georgia Car Insurance Claims and Settlements Guide for Injury Cases
Georgia Auto Insurance Minimum Requirements
Each state has its own set of auto insurance policy requirements and minimums for coverage. In Georgia the minimum coverage is:
- Bodily Injury Liability:$25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
- Property Damage Liability:$25,000 per accident
You will probably recognize that these minimum requirements are not sufficient to cover the injuries in a serious accident. Many Georgians opt to raise the payout amounts to be on the safe side.
The State’s requirements are meant to be a small, affordable safety net for all drivers. Nevertheless, they cannot possibly cover all the damages and injuries that might happen in a serious accident.
Additional Automobile Coverage
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage
While minimum insurance coverage is required for all drivers in Georgia, not all drivers follow the law. For this reason, many Georgians add uninsured motorist coverage to their auto policies in order to protect themselves from people who have no coverage at all, or who have small policies that are not enough to cover a large accident claim.
Property (car or truck) Damage Insurance
Additionally, people frequently buy insurance to cover the damage to their own vehicle in an event or accident since such damages are not covered in the State’s minimum coverage requirements. There are two kinds of physical damage insurance:
- The first, “comprehensive,” also called “other than collision” coverage, is meant to pay for theft, vandalism and fire type losses unrelated to car crashes.
- The second type is “collision” Physical Damage coverage is not required by State law, but is almost always required by the bank, finance, or leasing company who is financing the purchase or lease the vehicle to protect their investment. This kind of coverage can also be used by the policy owner to recover or repair damages to his vehicle.
Medical Payments Coverage
Insurance coverage for the medical costs of persons who were injured while in the vehicle driven by the insured is called “Medical Pay” or “MPC” in Georgia. This kind of popular insurance policy is used to cover injuries in addition to or in place of health insurance. Unfortunately, most med-pay polices are fairly small. MPC is usually purchased with limits of $1,000, $2,500, $10,000, or $50,000.
Although at-fault drivers are required to provide insurance information, sometimes the process breaks-down. Maybe no police report was made, or perhaps the insurance information on the report is wrong. You contact the at-fault driver, but he or she refuses to provide additional information. What should you do?
O.C.G.A. 33-3-28 (a)(2) requires an insured to give an injured person or that person’s lawyer their insurance information within 30 days of a request being made. If an insured driver fails or refuses to provide insurance information, you may have a few legal remedies. One is to file a legal proceeding known as a mandamus, compelling the insured or his company (if known and it is the insurance company that is refusing to provide the information), and another is to file suit and use the compulsory discovery process to force the defendant to produce the insurance policy information.
Are IRA (Individual Retirement Accounts) protected from judgments?
The Georgia Supreme Court (affirmed by the United States Supreme Court) has held that funds distributed from IRA’s cannot be taken or assigned by creditors. See, Lanier Collection Agency v. Mackey, 256 Ga. 499 (1986), affirmed 486 U.S. 825.
The at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster is reducing my medical bills. What should I do?
Unfortunately, an increasingly common tactic is for the insurance adjuster representing the at-fault driver in a car or truck accident case to ‘reduce’ the amount of your medical bills in order to pay less in settlement of your injury claim. The adjuster will argue that some of your treatment was unnecessary or that you were over-billed. Of course, this is absurd because you were simply following doctor’s orders when you received your medical care and you did not decide how much your bills would be.
If you are faced with these unfair and bad-faith tactics, what can you do? One solution is to file a lawsuit immediately. It is unlikely that a Judge or Jury will reduce your medical bills “just because” the adjuster has said to do so. Jurors like you are likely to understand that you did not choose to be hurt or to set the amount of your bills. Our firm has taken the position that we do not allow the insurance company or adjuster to dictate whether the amount of our client’s medical bills is ‘reasonable’ and will fight such tactics whenever we encounter them.
What if the at-fault driver does not have automobile or truck insurance?
In Georgia if an at-fault driver is uninsured, you may be able to bring a claim under your own uninsured motorist policy. In that event you notify your insurance carrier and make the claim. If a lawsuit must be filed, the at-fault driver is sued and served with the lawsuit, just as if that driver were being defended by his or her own insurance company. If the defendant driver resides outside the state or has left the state, or that driver, after proving due diligence, cannot be found within the State of Georgia or hides him or her self to avoid service of the summons you may petition the Court for service by publication per O.C.G.A. 9-11-4.
While service by publication will not allow you to get personal jurisdiction over the defendant or recover his or her liability policy (there is an exception if the driver intentionally evades service), this method allows you to recover UM (uninsured motorist) benefits under your policy, which is contractual in nature).
What is Georgia Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance (UM or UIM) Coverage?
Georgia’s Uninsured or Under-insured Motorist Insurance (Georgia UIM Insurance), in the simplest terms means insurance against another driver being without insurance, or under-insured. Unlike other types of insurance like medical payments coverage, Georgia UIM pays benefits only when another driver is at fault in a collision or crash, and not you, the injured driver.
What laws control Georgia UM Coverage?
The Georgia Uninsured Motorist Act governs UM or UIM coverage, and is found at O.C.G.A. 33-7-11.
How Do I Make or Bring a Georgia Un-insured or Under-Insured Motorist Claim for Benefits?
Known (identified) under insured or un-insured driver cases:
If the driver or owner of an uninsured or underinsured vehicle are known and you or your Georgia personal injury attorneys have a reasonable belief that the at-fault car or truck is underinsured or uninsured, a copy of the lawsuit must be served on the under-insured motorist insurance company. See, O.C.G.A. 33-7-11.
The Clerk of Court where the lawsuit is filed will issue you a duplicate original summons (the paperwork you need for service of process) to be served by the process server, which may be a Sheriff, marshal or private appointed process server. This duplicate original summons will then be served in the same way that the at-fault defendant is served. O.C.G.A. 33-7-11(d). This type of service is done the same way whether the driver is known, or is a “John Doe” (see below).
Un-Known (unidentified) UM driver cases — also known as a John Doe case:
If the driver who caused the accident is not known or could not be identified, you may bring a claim known as a “John Doe” case. A John Doe Complaint makes the claim against the unknown driver by naming him or her as John or Jane Doe, and then the Complaint (lawsuit) is served on the Uninsured (UM) insurance company.
Can I Sue The Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Insurance Company Directly?
In a typical case, No. Your Georgia legal Complaint (ie.,the lawsuit) may not identify the UIM carrier as a defendant or party to your case. However, the UM carrier, once served with the case has the right to choose to defend in its own name, and can make itself a defendant (party) in your case.
What Happens If I Cannot Find the At-Fault Driver When It Is Time to File My Lawsuit?
If you cannot find a driver who caused the accident in order to serve the lawsuit on him or her, it is possible to use “service by publication” under O.C.G.A. 33-7-11 to satisfy the service rules allowing you to pursue recovery using your uninsured motorist coverage. While, you cannot normally obtain an enforceable judgment against an individual using service by publication, the Uninsured Motorist Statute creates a narrow exception, allowing you to bring a case and recover using your Georgia UIM insurance.
You may serve the owner or driver of the uninsured vehicle by publication if he or she resides out of state, has left the state, cannot be found after due diligence, or if he or she conceals themselves to avoid service of process. 33-7-11(e). Finally, before you may serve a defendant by publication, you must obtain an order from the Court showing that a claim exists and that the person you seek to serve is a necessary party to the case.
A Georgia accident victim must serve the underinsured or uninsured motorist carrier when a reasonable belief exists that the at-fault vehicle is not insured or is underinsured. This can be done at any time before the statute of limitations runs, or within 90 days after the the victim discovers, or should have discovered, that the vehicle was underinsured or un-insured. See, OCGA 33-7-11(d).
In Georgia, How Do I Serve my Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Insurance Company?
To serve a Georgia lawsuit on your un-insured or under-insured insurance carrier, the service must be made on the Company’s actual agent (registered agent), rather than the insurance agent who simply orders or sells the policy. This is because an insurance sales agent is usually only an independent contractor of the company, and not someone with authority to act on behalf of or bind the company with his or her actions.