State Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon) is sponsoring Senate Bill 276 which would allow Georgia drivers to add 100 percent of an under/uninsured motorist (UM) insurance policy on top of the at-fault driver’s liability policy. UM insurance is additional coverage that protects individuals who are hit by drivers with a low level of insurance, or none at all.“For surviving victims of drunk driving crashes, medical bills are their greatest hurdle,” said Denise Thames, executive director of MADD Georgia. “Having the ability to get full benefit of their UM policy and the at-fault drivers policy would be a tremendous gain. This is one way we can insure that all victim survivors are receiving the full benefit of what they have paid for in their premiums.”
Under current state law, an at-fault driver’s liability policy counts against – or eats into – the accident victim’s UM coverage. For example, a victim who paid for $50,000 in UM coverage would only receive half of that amount ($25,000) if they were hit by a driver carrying the minimum $25,000 in liability insurance. If the accident victim’s car repair and medical bills totaled more than $50,000, they would be responsible for payment out of their own pocket.
Thus, drivers who have faithfully paid extra premiums for UM coverage are often not able to access all of it when they need it most. Even worse, the insurance companies get to pocket whatever amount they are not required by law to pay out.
In fact, Georgia drivers only receive the full benefit of UM coverage if hit by an uninsured motorist. “Just because you paid for the extra coverage doesn’t guarantee you’ll get to use 100 percent of the policy when you need it,” said Allison Wall, executive director of Georgia Watch. “This is the reality for Georgia drivers today, and most don’t realize it.”
Nearly two dozen other states – including Alabama and South Carolina – allow UM stacking when the at-fault driver has minimum coverage. State Farm Insurance Company, the state’s largest car insurance carrier, estimates that the cost of UM policies in Georgia would increase on average between $2.50 and $4 a month if stacking were allowed.
According to State Farm’s data, Alabama drivers pay an average $28.75 premium for a six-month policy of $25,000 of UM coverage that will stack on top of an at-fault driver’s liability coverage. For the same UM coverage that doesn’t stack, Georgia drivers currently pay an average $13 premium.
See news report by Andy Peters in the Fulton County Daily Report.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, former chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and the Georgia Insurance Law Institute, and former chair of the Tort & Insurance Practice Section of the State Bar of Georgia. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck accidents.