What is UM and why the heck should I care?!?!

josh branch

At The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC, a large portion of our practice deals with clients who are seriously injured in automobile and tractor-trailer wrecks. Because of this, we have seen a large number of varied insurance policies and have handled all sorts of situations related to auto insurance and personal injury claims following motor vehicle accidents in Georgia and Florida and from clients throughout the country.

In this blog post, The Athens Car Accident Attorney, Josh Branch, shares the importance of uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance and why it should matter to you.

Auto Insurance Requirements by State

Every state has its own car insurance requirements that dictate how much and what kinds of coverage are mandatory.

For example, in Florida, one only must maintain $10k in PIP (personal injury protection) and $10K in property damage, coverage; there is no requirement that one keep any bodily injury coverage.

However, in Georgia, one requirement is that every motorist must maintain at least $25,000/$50,000 of coverage for bodily injury or death to an individual in any one accident. Georgia Code OCGA 33-7-11(A)(1)(a) elaborates on this.

The full requirements for auto insurance coverage in Georgia are as follows:

  • $25,000 in property damage insurance per accident
  • $25,000 in bodily injury insurance per individual
  • $50,000 in bodily injury insurance coverage per accident

States also vary between insurance claims being determined by “fault” and “no-fault.” In no-fault states, motorists file claims with their own insurance company regardless of who is liable for a crash. Georgia, however, is a traditional fault state, meaning that when a car wreck occurs in our state, you must file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

What happens when someone from Florida (who has met their state’s requirements) drives through Georgia? In such cases, a law known as the Deemer statute applies as described in OCGA 33-34-3 (a)(2). In essence, the Deemer statute provides that any insurer who issues insurance and/or conducts business in the state of Georgia must apply the same minimums. Practically speaking, this generally will mean that the Georgia state minimum limits apply to anyone who drives through the state.

We wanted to lay an abbreviated foundation regarding automobile insurance before delving into UM/UIM (uninsured/underinsured) motorist coverage so that everyone has a better grasp that there is not “endless amounts of insurance” and that unfortunately when someone says they are “fully covered” that often means they have the minimum coverage. Hopefully no one reading this will ever need to utilize their UM/UIM, but we see this need way too often, and making sure you have substantial amounts of it can protect you and your family.

Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage

Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage kicks in if you have been in an incident with bodily injuries or death, involving a motor vehicle, which was caused by someone with inadequate auto insurance or no auto insurance of their own. UM/UIM also is applicable to pedestrians who were injured in a motor vehicle incident.

UM/UIM provides protection to consumers in situations in which the liable party doesn’t have adequate coverage, it is a real good idea to add a substantial amount of it to your policy, even though it isn’t a requirement. Many motor vehicle crashes can be minor, but others can be utterly devastating in terms of life changing injuries. When it comes to the latter, $25,000 is not going to even come close to adequately compensating an injured victim for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, and, heaven forbid, even loss of use of a body part or loss of residual functioning of an essential body part.

For example, I have tried many cases in which the at-fault party’s auto insurance was vastly insufficient so it was so reassuring to find out that the client (and/or someone in her/his household) took out sufficient UM/UIM coverage. One such case was the case of Waters v. Shirley, which I tried to verdict in Rabun County Georgia, the Defendant had only $25,000 in insurance coverage, but the Plaintiff had to undergo a cervical fusion procedure which required cutting open the client’s neck and placing hardware on her spine after implanting artificial discs to alleviate the pressure upon her spinal cord. Her medical bills alone were over $80k. So, do you think that $25,000 is adequate coverage? I hope your answer is heck no! That was my opinion and the client’s as well and thankfully the juries opinion too. For what it is worth, we obtained a verdict of over $330,000.00.

The law on UM coverage, in Georgia, prior to January 1st, 2009, was that there was an offset of the liability coverage from the UM coverage. Senate Bill 276 was presented and went into effect on January 1, 2009, allowing what is referred to as “stacking” coverage which allows the policy of the liability insurance to be added to the UM. This is good for the citizens of the state of Georgia and hopefully will continue to be the law moving forward.

We highly recommend that you make sure that you have a considerable amount of UM/UIM insurance and that you speak to your insurer today about making that so. It cannot be more than your liability policy but is so needed at times. UM/UIM is truly one of those things that is a safety in the case that you or a relative in your household were to be seriously injured.

We have seen many sad situations in which, after diligent searches for applicable coverage, were left with the conclusion that despite serious injuries there was only $25,000 in liability coverage and no UM/UIM and with a defendant that was judgment proof.

So, please protect yourself and those you love and make sure that you have a substantial amount of UM/UIM in case a horrific automobile crash were to occur to you or your loved ones in your household. I hope this never occurs but if it does you want to make sure that you are protecting you and your household and not leaving things to chance.

The Athens Car Accident Attorney Is Here When You Need Him Most

One of the goals of our practice is to provide readers with the knowledge they need to avoid car crashes and injuries altogether. We love our state and the people in it and hope that everyone who uses Georgia’s roadways does so as safely and enjoyably as possible.

However, we also understand that crashes happen—even to those who are informed and prepared. Therefore, we believe in helping accident victims receive compensation to cover expenses such as medical treatment and lost wages and obtain just sums for pain and suffering in the event of a motor vehicle collision. In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle or other incident causing serious injury while in Georgia, we are here to help.

Please don’t hesitate to call The Athens Car Accident Attorney at (706) 760-9220 or contact us online for the legal advice and representation you deserve. All consultations are completely free and confidential.