Court Clarifies Georgia Uninsured Motorist Policy Requirements

The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently issued an opinion in a plaintiffs’ appeal of a summary judgment order entered in favor of their insurance company. The appeal concerns the type and amount of coverage available under an insurance policy the plaintiffs purchased. The case presents common issues that Georgia injury victims face when trying to recover from at-fault drivers and insurance companies.

In 2010, the plaintiffs purchased automobile insurance in the standard coverage limits, which were $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. In 2012 the plaintiffs increased their standard coverage amount to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. At that time, the insurance company did not offer the plaintiffs an increase of their UM coverage. About three years after the policy increase, the woman suffered serious injuries in a Georgia car accident. The at-fault driver settled with the woman at the cap of their insurance policy, which was $100,000. The amount did not cover the woman’s medical bills or her husband’s loss of consortium claim. As such, the plaintiffs filed a claim with their insurance company for the remaining balance. The couple argued that the insurance company violated a statutory duty to offer them an increase in their UM coverage when they increased their standard coverage.

Under Georgia law, automobile insurance policies must contain uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provisions. Unless the insured affirmatively chooses a lower UM coverage amount, the amount must be at least $25,00 person and $50,00 per accident, or the level of standard coverage-whichever is higher. The statute provides that insurers offer or provide the minimum UM coverage at issuance or delivery of the policy. However, an exception exists that states that insurance companies do not need to provide the coverage as supplements to a renewal policy where the coverage was previously rejected.

At trial, the court ruled that the insurance company did not have to offer the plaintiffs an increase in coverage when they increased their standard coverage. The plaintiffs conceded that they did not request an increase of UM coverage in 2012, but that the increase occurred in the middle of a policy period and did not constitute a renewal. However, the court reasoned that even if the 2012 policy did not constitute a renewal, a statutory duty is only triggered when the policy is “issued or delivered.” Georgia courts have found that issuance or delivery of a contract occurs when the original policy is created. The appellate court ultimately ruled in favor of the insurance company, finding that the change in policy coverage did not create a “new policy.” Therefore, the insurance company did not have a duty to increase the plaintiff’s UM coverage.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries in a Georgia car accident, you should contact the dedicated injury attorneys at McAleer Law. When Georgia motorists purchase insurance coverage, they rightfully expect the insurance company to provide them with financial protection in the event of an accident. However, many motorists do not anticipate the challenges that recovery will entail. In many cases, injury victims must contend with adversarial at-fault drivers and insurance companies. The attorneys at our law firm have years of experience successfully handling the most complicated accident cases. We have recovered substantial amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients against negligent motorists and difficult insurance companies. Contact our office at 404-622-5337 to schedule an initial consultation with a Georgia accident attorney at our law firm.