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Georgia Court Holds Uninsured Motorist Claims Restricted to Third-Party Vehicles

flat tireMany times in an auto accident case, a defendant will have only a limited amount of automobile insurance, or perhaps no insurance at all. When this happens, plaintiffs can try to recover against their own insurance company under an uninsured motorist claim. While uninsured motorist claims are usually used when third-party defendants don’t have insurance, some plaintiffs have tried to creatively plead them to apply to their own vehicles or vehicles they drive. A recent case illustrates this attempted approach.

In this Georgia truck accident case, J.H. was injured as a result of an accident involving a truck he drove for work. J.H. worked for M.R., doing business as Rose Logging. J.H. drove a large logging truck for M.R. for work. He could return the truck to work at the end of his shift or drive it home. At the time the accident occurred, J.H. was driving the truck from a logging site to a wood yard when two of his tires blew out. J.H. pulled over to the side of the road to replace the tires. M.R. arrived to assist him in putting a replacement tire on that could be used to drive the truck to a repair site to have both tires replaced.

M.R. began inflating the replacement tire and then turned it over to J.H. to finish. While the tire was inflating, it blew off the wheel and struck J.H., causing him serious injuries.  J.H. made a claim against Rose Logging’s insurer and received $100,000, the limit of that policy. However, J.H.’s injuries exceeded $100,000, so J.H. then brought a claim under his own insurance policy against his insurance provider for an uninsured motorist claim. J.H.’s insurer moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the summary judgment motion, finding that J.H.’s truck was not an uninsured vehicle under Georgia’s statutes. J.H. appealed.

Under Georgia’s statutes, the term uninsured motor vehicle is defined as any motor vehicle other than a motor vehicle owned or furnished for the regular use of the named insured. J.H.’s insurer argued that since J.H. regularly used the truck for his day to day work activities, the vehicle was one furnished for regular use and was not an uninsured motor vehicle.  J.H. argued that excluding the truck from the uninsured motor vehicle category violated Georgia’s requirements that all automobile policies be issued with coverage for uninsured motor vehicles.

The Georgia Court of Appeals looked at the facts of the case and found that J.H.’s truck did not qualify as an uninsured motor vehicle. First, it found that the definitions in the statute were to be strictly construed. Second, it held that since J.H. used the truck for work on a daily basis, he fell within the category of regular use by the named insured. While J.H. pointed to several cases within Georgia that required that insurers provide coverage for uninsured vehicles, the court noted that all of these cases applied in circumstances in which a third party, usually another driver, was driving the uninsured vehicle, instead of the claimant himself or herself. Accordingly, the court found these cases distinguishable.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision in finding that J.H.’s truck did not qualify as an uninsured motor vehicle.

Plaintiffs in tricky situations may sometimes try to creatively plead that an uninsured motor vehicle claim can be brought on their own vehicle, but this makes clear that these types of claims are difficult to sustain. Atlanta car accident attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert can help you work through the various claims that may be available against an opposing party, their insurer, or your own insurer when no other options exist. Call us today at (404) 370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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