Articles Posted in Uninsured Motorist

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Car accident claims typically involve insurance coverage in one form or another. There are many types of policies and assorted levels of coverage. Parties injured in car accidents may be entitled to recover damages under one or more agreements, depending on the particular facts and circumstances. Significantly, Georgia law provides a great deal of guidance as far as the extent of recovery under certain policies, such as “uninsured” or “underinsured” motorist (“UM”) coverage, among other types. Since the amount a person would be entitled to recover in any given car accident case is dependent on the facts and applicable law, it is imperative that an injured person contact an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.

The Georgia Supreme Court recently agreed to hear an appeal in a case, Carter v. Progressive Mountain Insurance, to determine whether the lower court correctly applied the motor vehicle limited liability release provision of the state code in rendering its decision. In this case, on February 22, 2010, Velicia Carter (hereinafter “Carter”) was injured in a car accident with Jeova Claudino Oliviera (hereinafter “Oliviera”). Carter alleged that Oliviera was driving under the influence at the time of the accident. Oliviera’s liability insurance policy with Geico had a $30,000 per person liability limit. Carter’s insurance policy with Progressive Mountain Insurance Company (hereinafter “Progressive”) included UM coverage of $25,000 per person.

Carter brought an action against Oliviera and served Progressive as her UM carrier. She settled with Geico (Oliviera’s insurance company) for $30,000 and signed a limited liability release, which is governed by Georgia State Code Section 32-24-41.1. The release allocated just $1,000 of Geico’s payment to compensatory damages and $29,000 to punitive damages. As a result, Progressive moved for summary judgment on the UM claim. The trial court granted the motion, ruling that by imposing the condition that $29,000 of the liability coverage amount be apportioned to the payment of punitive damages, Carter did not comply with a prerequisite for recovery of UM proceeds. The appellate court affirmed, holding that by not allocating the entire payment to compensatory damages, the plaintiff failed to exhaust the limits of Oliviera’s liability policy and therefore gave up the right to make a UM claim. The court held that the Georgia statute permits an injured party to settle a claim and then recover UM benefits only to the claimant’s actual injuries or losses, not punitive damages. Continue reading

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Car accident claims and insurance coverage often go hand-in-hand. Most drivers have some form of automobile insurance to provide financial coverage in the event of an accident. Those contracts, however, can be fairly complicated and the extent of recovery is often determined by the circumstances surrounding the claim. In many cases, the insurance company will attempt to limit its out-of-pocket liability for a claim by raising any number of defenses. An experienced personal injury attorney, who is fully familiar with the Georgia insurance code as it applies to cases occurring in and around the Atlanta area, would be able to competently and efficiently handle such claims to ensure that an injured plaintiff achieves a maximum recovery.

In a recent case, Assaf v. Cincinnati Insurance Company (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the plaintiff Assaf appealed a summary judgment order in favor of the insurance company. Here, the driver of an uninsured vehicle struck and injured Assaf while he was walking alongside a road. Assaf brought a personal injury action against the driver and served Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”) with a copy of the complaint. Cincinnati is Assaf’s uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier. Assaf amended the complaint to add a claim against Cincinnati, arguing that its refusal to provide $1,000,000 in uninsured/underinsured benefits (“UM Coverage’) amounted to a breach of contract.

Much of the case involved a dispute over whether plaintiff was entitled to excess UM Coverage under the applicable insurance policy. According to Assaf, he spoke by telephone with an employee of the insurance agency and requested an umbrella policy that included $1,000,000 in UM Coverage. The actual policy, however, did not provide the excess coverage and there was a “check mark” in a box, which indicated that Assaf (who signed the document) rejected the excess coverage. Despite this evidence, Assaf testified that he did not sign the form – or check the box – rejecting the excess coverage. Assaf claimed that the agent forged his signature. Even assuming Assaf’s claims regarding the forgery were true, Cincinnati moved for summary judgment on various grounds, such as reasonable reliance on the application in issuing coverage, among several other things. Continue reading

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A 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. Continue reading

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Car accidents are a common occurrence in and around the Atlanta area.  Unfortunately, many innocent victims are injured each year as the result of one driver’s negligence while behind the wheel.  Injuries sustained in car accidents can range from mild scrapes and abrasions to more serious matters such as broken bones, head trauma, paralysis and even death.  For victims of such cases, it is critical to speak to an experienced, local injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident to determine your rights to compensation for any suffering and losses.

There are many important procedural steps to take when initiating a personal injury action.  The local laws can be confusing and there are critical time limitations to adhere to every step of the way.  Another important aspect of any injury case involving a car vehicle accident is the victim’s right to recover under various insurance policies, depending on the circumstances.  The manner in which one handles the case can impact a victim’s entitlement to a potential damages recovery.

In a recent case, Newton v. Ragland, Ga. Ct. of App. (2013), the appellate court reversed the lower court’s refusal to enforce a settlement agreement in a personal injury action that arose from car accident.  In March 2009, Newton ran a red light at an intersection and crashed into Ragland’s vehicle.  As a result of the accident, Ragland sustained severe injuries.  Newton’s vehicle was covered under two separate insurance policies: her own automobile liability insurance (USAA General Indemnity Company policy) and a Zurich Insurance Company policy that was held by a dealership that owned the car at the time of the accident. Continue reading