When a commercial truck driver is killed or seriously injured due to the negligence of the driver of a smaller vehicle, it is important to find out whether the insurance policy on the commercial truck includes uninsured / underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage. If so, that UM/UIM coverage would be available to compensate the truck driver or his/her family.
Getting that UM/UIM coverage information from the trucking company and its insurer prior to litigation can be tricky. Official Code of Georgia § 33-3-28 does require pre-suit disclosure of insurance coverage information by insureds and insurers. It provides, in part: “Every insurer providing liability or casualty insurance coverage in this state and which is or may be liable to pay all or a part of any claim shall provide, within 60 days of receiving a written request from the claimant, a statement, under oath, of a corporate officer or the insurer’s claims manager stating with regard to each known policy of insurance issued by it, including excess or umbrella insurance, the name of the insurer, the name of each insured, and the limits of coverage.”
Although the statute really has no teeth, a lot of insurance companies are pretty good about disclosing liability limits if the question is posed exactly the right way. For example, if two entities within the same group of insurance companies issue the primary auto policy and the umbrella policy, you have to send the request to each of the two entities, supported by an affidavit from the claimant to comply with procedure in the statute. If one does not ask the entity issuing the umbrella policy, the related entity will not provide that information.
The statute does not talk about disclosure of UM/UIM coverage, but neither does it exclude it. Voluntary compliance by a trucking company’s insurer regarding a request for UM/UIM coverage information on behalf of an injured truck driver cannot be assumed. Some will, some won’t.
Once that information is obtained, some trucking insurance policies include UM/UIM coverage the match the liability policy limits, most often $1,000,000, though the minimum liability coverage for general freight haulers in interstate commerce is $750,000. The UM/UIM coverage is not required, but it doesn’t cost much extra. It is always worth checking to determine whether it exists.
If the insurer does not comply with a pre-suit request for information under O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28, it may be necessary to file suit against the driver at fault, serve the trucking company’s insurer as a UM/UIM carrier, and conduct formal discovery to obtain a complete copy of the policy.
This comes to mind because of a news story today of a fatal crash in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Eric Murray, 39, a truck driver from Minneapolis, Minn., was driving a tractor-trailer that was struck by a minivan that was attempting to merge onto I-85 northbound from Beaver Ruin Road. A passenger in the tractor-trailer, Bryant Garrott, 62, of Minneapolis, was also injured Gwinnett Medical Center.
Over the years, we have represented numerous injured truck drivers. Recently, we recovered a good settlement for a truck driver who was injured when he rear-ended an SUV on an expressway even though the police blamed the truck driver for the wreck.ely that she has more the mandatory minimum auto insurance.