3 Reasons You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

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(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/2953736361/)

Effective January 1, 2009, Georgia law changed with respect to UM coverage in a way that I believe was beneficial to Georgia drivers.  Under the new law, Georgia drivers have three options for UM coverage:  (1) “added-on” or “stacking” UM coverage; (2) “reduced by” or “non-stacking” UM coverage; or (3) no UM coverage at all.  Under the first option, if you are the victim of a wreck involving a driver whose liability limits are not sufficient to cover your damages, then your UM limits should “add-on” or “stack” on top of the at-fault driver’s liability limits.  For example, if your damages (i.e. medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) are $75,000, and the at-fault driver only has $50,000, then if you had $25,000 in UM coverage, the total amount of coverage available to cover your damages would be $75,000 ($50,000 + $25,000 = $75,000).  Under the second option, if you had “reduced by” or “non-stacking” UM coverage, then under the same scenario above, your UM coverage would be reduced by the $50,000 of liability coverage, meaning that your UM carrier would probably not have to pay any money.  In other words, your UM policy would not provide benefits because the limits under your UM policy were not greater than the at-fault party’s liability limits. Finally, under the third option, you of course would be stuck with the $50,000 in liability limits because you rejected any UM coverage (not a good option!).  For more information about how the different UM insurance options operate, I recommend this article by the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

So, now that you understand the basics of UM/UIM coverage in Georgia, here are 3 reasons why you need to make absolutely sure you have this coverage on your car insurance policy.

1.  A Tough Economy Means More Uninsured/Underinsured drivers – This is the harsh reality of tough economic conditions.  Although it is illegal to drive without liability insurance coverage, this does not prevent drivers from allowing insurance coverage to lapse because of failure to pay premiums.  A recent study by the Insurance Research Council suggests that roughly one in seven drivers in the United States is uninsured.

2.  Health Care Costs are Continually Rising – As health care costs continually rise, so does the amount of insurance required to cover those costs.  The minimum liability limit of $25,000 (in Georgia) is often insufficient to adequately cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages.  Therefore, it is important that you have “stacking” UM coverage to provide adequate coverage.

3.  Hit-and-Run Drivers Just Don’t Care – Sometimes people cause wrecks and they don’t care to hang around to deal with the damage that they have caused.  It can be difficult to locate these drivers after a wreck has occurred, leaving the victim of the wreck in an unfortunate situation.  However, UM coverage can provide insurance coverage in these situations to ensure that a bad situation is not made worse because of a hit-and-run driver.

The lesson to be learned?  Make sure you not only have adequate liability coverage under your car insurance policy, but also adequate UM coverage.  Also, if you have been injured in a wreck, you need to check your insurance policy to determine specifically what UM benefits may be available to you through your insurance company.  You should also consult a personal injury attorney to help you understand the steps you need to take to ensure your injuries are adequately covered.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?

Occasionally, someone who has been injured in a car wreck or in some other manner because of a third-party’s negligence will ask me whether they “need” an attorney to resolve their legal claims for personal injury.  My general response is that whether they decide to hire an attorney is eventually their decision, but that there are several risks and disadvantages they should be aware of if they decide not to hire a personal injury attorney.  In my opinion, the risks and disadvantages of not having a personal injury attorney represent you substantially outweigh whatever perceived benefit the individual has of “going it alone” with the insurance company.  I just recently reviewed an interesting article from Consumer Reports® magazine that also suggests a “do-it-yourself” approach to other legal matters is no substitute for having the benefit of a professional attorney.

It has often been repeated among lawyers and judges that “he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”  This can be difficult advice for many people who are determined, independent, and self-motivated – I am precisely that kind of person.  Nevertheless, I know that there are certain areas of expertise in which my legal skills and knowledge will fall short of what is required to obtain the best results.  In many situations, proceeding ahead without the proper skills and knowledge can have serious negative consequences.  For example, I fully understand that when it comes to issues of health and medicine, I need to consult a competent and skilled doctor, and that if I fail to do so, there may be serious negative consequences. Likewise, when it comes to issues of personal injury law (or any other area of law for that matter), one should consult and hire a competent and skilled personal injury attorney; otherwise, there may be serious negative consequences.

There are several important reasons why you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you have been injured to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you do not inadvertently take a course of action that has serious negative consequences.  You can be sure that the negligent party’s insurance company will have both experienced claims representatives and experienced attorneys helping it make decisions throughout the claims-handling process – after all, handling a personal injury claim any other way would simply be “foolish.”

If you have been injured because of someone’s negligent conduct and would like to schedule a free consultation with a Waycross personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights, please call us at (912) 449-3000 or contact us using the form on our website.

New Report: Georgia Trucking Companies May Evade Safety Oversight

A recently released report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) addressing motor carrier safety, as well as a review by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, indicate that the barriers to starting a trucking company in Georgia (and in other states) is relatively low, and furthermore, that there are problems with adequate safety oversight of certain trucking companies.  These reports specifically address “chameleon carriers” – trucking companies that dodge safety reviews and regulatory sanctions by shutting down operations and reforming so they can operate under a new name.  The GAO report explains, “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mission is to ensure motor carriers operate safely in interstate commerce. FMCSA partners with state agencies to conduct a variety of motor carrier oversight activities, which are carried out by certified auditors, inspectors, and investigators. Some motor carriers have registered under a new identity and begun to operate in interstate commerce, violating federal law in an effort to disguise their former identity and evade detection by FMCSA. Such carriers are known as chameleon carriers.”  Because these “chameleon carriers” can often evade safety review or other sanctions for violating federal and state laws designed to ensure that trucking companies operate safely, such companies may pose an increased risk to other motorists on the highways.  It also may be more difficult for persons injured by the negligence of such trucking companies to pursue insurance proceeds that trucking companies must maintain by law to cover the injuries of wreck victims.  The entire GAO report can be found here.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of the negligence of a trucking company and you need to discuss your rights with a Waycross personal injury attorney, please contact us to consult with an experienced attorney regarding your legal rights.

(SourcesAtlanta Journal Constitution; U.S. GAO Report; Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregondot/3698869372/)

Computerized Claims-Adjusting Software

Below is a link to an interesting article that discusses the use of computerized claims software by insurance companies in personal injury cases and how such software programs may be programmed or designed to reduce unfairly the amount of an injured person’s claims, thus resulting in “low-ball” offers and payments from the insurer.  As a Waycross personal injury attorney, I have observed that most people who are injured in a car wreck, motorcycle wreck, tractor-trailer wreck, or other scenario in which an insurance company is responsible for adjusting the claim probably do not think that the insurance company would use a computer to determine the “fair value” of their injuries.  However, as a result of recent court cases in which insurance companies have been required by the courts to produce internal documents and other information about their claims-handling practices, it is becoming more apparent that insurers are using these computerized claims software programs more often than people might imagine.  Unlike the “enlightened conscious” of an impartial jury, who may consider all relevant and admissible evidence regarding an injury victim’s injuries and suffering, these computer programs can only consider the information that they are given by the insurance adjusters using them.

You can read the full article here.