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Georgia Law Applicable to Uninsured Motorist Case; Allows for Recovery

to-sign-a-contract-3-1221952-mA fair amount of car accidents in the Atlanta area involve drivers with no automobile insurance coverage. Motorists who are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver would seem to be in an unfair situation.  But the law in Georgia contains certain provisions that serve to remedy such a situation. The primary purpose of the state’s uninsured motorist statute is to place the injured insured person in the same position as if the offending uninsured driver were actually covered by liability insurance.  There are many complicated legal issues to sort through in a car accident case.  In order to ensure that you receive the maximum recovery for your injuries and damages, it is critical that you contact an experienced injury attorney who is fully familiar with the local laws in Georgia.

Not every state’s laws are alike. The extent of a plaintiff’s recovery in a car accident case could depend on which state’s laws apply to the matter. In St. Paul Fire and Marine Ins. Co. v. Hughes, Ga. Ct. of App. (2013), the court was asked to determine whether Indiana or Georgia law applied to the dispute.  In this case, Hughes, a resident of Georgia, was involved in two-vehicle accident that occurred in Georgia.  At the time, he was driving a truck that was owned by his employer, Townsend Tree Service Co., Inc. (“Townsend”). Significant to this case was that although the truck was “principally used and garaged in Georgia,” it was registered in Indiana.

After suing the other driver, Hughes settled his claims for $25,000 (the policy limit). Next, he tried to recover uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits from Ace American Insurance Company under the vehicle policy issued to Townsend. That policy, however, did not provide UM coverage because Townsend had rejected such coverage.  Hughes resorted to seeking UM benefits under the St. Paul Policy.  St. Paul moved for summary judgment arguing that Indiana law applied to the case, which did not require UM coverage at that time.  The trial court denied the argument and concluded that Georgia law applied to the case, noting that St. Paul is licensed in Georgia and the truck was principally garaged and used in Georgia.

Under the relevant Georgia Statute, the court found that in the absence of a written waiver of UM benefits, St. Paul is required to provide up to $8 million in UM coverage.  St. Paul appealed.  The court of appeals affirmed pointing out that the state statute is intended to protect innocent victims from the negligence of irresponsible drivers. Based on the facts mentioned above, the court noted that it was reasonable for the parties to believe that Georgia was the principal location of risk and to expect that Georgia law would apply and be determinative on the issue of UM coverage.  Finally, without a written rejection of the UM benefits under the policy, the court found that St. Paul’s UM exclusion conflicts with the plain language of the Georgia statute, and is therefore void.

Car accident claims typically involve insurance companies and their respective policies.  As this case shows, there are many fine details to be aware of when initiating such a lawsuit.  In order to protect your rights, it is important to consult with an experienced injury attorney at the outset of any negligence action.

Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling automobile accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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