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Georgia Court Reviews State Uninsured Motorist Statute in Car Accident Law Suit

Car accidents have the potential to cause wide-ranging and long-lasting injuries to the people involved. Georgia law provides the injured victim with recourse against a negligent driver. While there are several elements to plead and prove in any personal injury action, the legal questions do not stop there. Add to this complex scenario the issue of insurance coverage:  do the drivers have automobile insurance, which policies apply to the circumstances of the accident, and to what extent will the plaintiff be entitled to a recovery? All of these questions frequently arise in claims arising from vehicle accidents on Atlanta roadways. If you have been injured as a result of another’s negligence, it is essential that you contact an injury attorney as soon as possible to determine the extent of your right to damages.

One of the most potentially confusing matters in virtually every car accident lawsuit is the question of insurance coverage. There are many different kinds of policies that “kick in,” depending on the language of the agreements and the facts surrounding the collision. Sometimes, a plaintiff is entitled to recover under more than one policy. In a recent case, Donovan v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the plaintiff, Lara Donovan, was a passenger in a pick up truck when the truck collided with a vehicle being driven by Jonathon McMillon. Donovan claimed that she sustained injuries that exceeded $100,000. Donovan had been living with her mother at the time of the accident.

The plaintiff brought an action against McMillion and three underinsured motorist (“UM”) carriers, one of which was State Farm, her mother’s carrier, and another of which was McMillon’s carrier, Progressive Insurance Company, which paid Donovan the $25,000 limit of his policy. The State Farm policy is something known as a “difference-in-limits” policy, which provides UM coverage only for the difference between the limits of the insured’s UM coverage and the available liability insurance. State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to a “set-off” for the $25,000 paid by Progressive Insurance. The trial court granted the motion. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that State Farm is not entitled to the set off under State Farm’s UM coverage limit.

The court of appeals reviewed Georgia law with respect to UM coverage. The court pointed out that a UM policy is meant to put the injured person in the same position he or she would have been in, had the liable uninsured motorist been covered by liability insurance. Specifically, case law suggests that the pertinent statute was enacted to protect the insured in terms of the actual loss within the limits of the policy (or policies, depending on the situation). The court upheld the lower court’s decision and noted that State Farm was the only insurance carrier deemed a “difference-in-limits” provider in this matter and, as such, was entitled to a set-off under the state insurance code. The court explained the insurance carriers that provide “excess” coverage would not be entitled to a set-off for available liability coverage.

This case illustrates the complicated nature of car accident claims with respect to insurance coverage. An experienced injury attorney who handles automobile claims on a routine basis would be able to review your case to determine the best strategy for a recovery under the circumstances. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of 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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