Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another great reason to have uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile

In a previous blog post, we wrote about why Georgia drivers should have uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage. But in addition to providing protection against uninsured drivers who cause a wreck (or drivers who have too little insurance to cover your damages), UM coverage may also provide coverage for injuries that occur even when you are not in a vehicle. Moreover, it pay protect others in your household from the same dangers (if you haven't read our post on the basics of Georgia uninsured motorist coverage, click here, or click here to view our firm's general information page on automobile insurance).

The Georgia Uninsured Motorist Act, Official Code of Georgia, Annotated, or O.C.G.A., section 33-7-11, provides that uninsured motorist coverage applies to "damages for bodily injury [or] loss of consortium or death . . . of an insured sustained from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle . . . ." The statute does not require that the injured person be in an automobile when the injury occurred, only that the injury be caused by an automobile. Thus, uninsured motorist benefits may be available where a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit by a negligent driver who is uninsured or underinsured (that is, the driver has liability insurance but not enough to fully compensate the injured person for all medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering).

The uninsured motorist law, O.C.G.A. section 33-7-11, also states that the coverage applies to the "named insured" (the person whose name is on the policy, which is usually the owner of the vehicle) as well as that named insured's relatives who live in the household. Relative includes relatives of a spouse of the named insured, and, through a 2006 amendment to the statute, also includes "a foster child or ward residing in the household of the named insured pursuant to a court order, guardianship, or placement by the Department of Family and Children Services or other department or agency of the state." While anyone riding in the insured motor vehicle is considered to be covered by the uninsured motorist coverage, the additional coverage that may apply to injuries sustained both in the insured vehicle and in other contexts (such as for a pedestrian) only comes into play if the injured person is both a resident of the named insured's household and is a relative of that named insured or the named insured's spouse.

It is important to note that many policies contain exclusions on when uninsured coverage applies, and these exclusions are sometimes upheld by the courts. Therefore, absent a written assurance from an insurer that coverage will apply to a pedestrian or cyclist, no one should rely upon UM coverage to protect them in those activities. But it may often be possible to collect additional coverage through uninsured motorist benefits on a car that was not involved in an accident, even though it may not have been immediately apparent that the coverage had any relation to the wreck. For this reason, our firm extensively studies all possible insurance policies to ensure that our clients do not miss out on available coverage, particularly where the at-fault driver had little or no liability coverage.

The information contained in this article is applicable to Georgia automobiles and wrecks only, and nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice. However, our firm has handled many claims involving automobile wrecks, including uninsured motorist claims, and we will be glad to meet with you if you have been involved in a wreck due to the negligence of another driver. Our attorneys have years of experience representing both insurance companies and injured people in hundreds of cases.

Turkheimer & Hadden, LLC
Trial and Appellate Lawyers
(404) 890-7200

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