Most of the time, getting compensation after being hurt in a car accident in Georgia means filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Even though auto insurance is required in the Peach State, many people aren’t familiar with their policies or how insurance claims work after a crash. The experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C., have compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about car insurance and accident claims in Georgia.
What Is Car Insurance?
Car insurance is a contract between you and your insurance carrier. It protects you against financial losses in the event of an auto accident or theft. Every month, you pay a premium towards your policy for specific coverage. Minimum limits are dependent on the coverage you purchased. The coverage your auto insurance provides includes the following:
- Medical coverage: The cost of treating injuries. In some situations, this also covers lost wages and funeral costs.
- Property loss: Covers damage to or theft of your car.
- Liability insurance: Provides financial protection if you cause injury or property damage to others in a car accident.
The policy you purchase covers you and any family members listed on your policy. There’s also coverage if someone not listed on your policy drives your vehicle with your consent.
A personal auto insurance policy only covers personal use of the vehicle. Commuting to work or running errands constitutes personal use. You’re not covered if you use your car for commercial situations, such as delivering products for your job.
If you have any questions about car insurance and the coverage on your policy, you should speak with the insurer’s customer service representative.
Is Auto Insurance Required In Georgia?
Georgia law requires all drivers to carry car insurance. If you own or operate a motor vehicle, you must carry liability insurance with certain limits. The minimum limits in Georgia are:
- $25,000 in bodily injury per person
- $50,000 in bodily injury per occurrence
- $25,000 in property damage
If you are caught driving without valid insurance, you could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months of jail time. You’ll also lose all driving privileges for 60 to 90 days.
Types Of Car Insurance in Georgia
For questions about car insurance claims, you should review your auto policy. It outlines the coverage you have purchased. The following are the types of accident coverage available in Georgia:
- Bodily Injury Liability: Pays another party for injuries or death resulting from a crash that you caused. The required minimum limit is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per occurrence.
- Property Damage Liability: Covers expenses related to damage of another motorist’s property if you’re found at fault for an accident. Property includes vehicles, homes, buildings, and other structures. The required minimum limit is $25,000.
- Medical Payments: MedPay is optional coverage that could pay for medical expenses, co-pays, deductibles, and funeral expenses, among others. These are generally payable even if you are at fault for the crash. MedPay does not cover injuries to other people, only the policyholder and any occupants in the covered vehicle.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM): If the at-fault driver is uninsured or does not carry enough insurance to cover the costs stemming from an accident, you may be unable to recover the full amount of compensation you need after a serious crash. Having UM/UIM on your policy can help with these leftover costs. You’re not required to purchase UM/UIM coverage, but all insurance carriers must offer it to you. At The Champion Firm, P.C., we highly recommend UM/UIM to drivers in Georgia.
Other forms of auto insurance include collision and comprehensive coverage, which cover expenses for damage to your vehicle due to accidents, inclement weather, and vandalism. Although this is optional coverage, you may be required to purchase it if your vehicle is leased or financed.
Who Pays for My Injuries in a Car Accident?
Georgia is a fault state. That means the person responsible for an auto accident or their insurance carrier should pay for damages incurred by the victim(s) of a crash.
If you wish to pursue a personal injury claim, you’ll file with the other driver’s auto insurance company. Car accident insurance claims usually result in a settlement that pays for the injured party’s damages. Damages are losses suffered as a result of an accident.
Crashes often result in economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages include losses that can easily be calculated, such as the cost of a hospital stay or prescription medications.
Noneconomic damages account for losses that are not as easily quantified, such as pain and suffering. You can collect both types of damages in Georgia. Examples include compensation for:
- Current, past, and future medical costs
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Vehicle repair or replacement
- Rental car
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of affection or companionship
- Wrongful death
There’s no limit to the settlement amount you could receive for economic and noneconomic damages.
Georgia law also allows some accident victims to collect punitive damages for drivers who were especially reckless. Punitive damages get paid directly from the negligent driver’s pocket and are limited to a maximum of $250,000.
What Happens If An Uninsured Driver Hits Me?
If a driver that doesn’t carry car insurance causes your accident, you can file a claim with your insurance company. Check your policy to see if you opted for uninsured motorist insurance (UM). Depending on the amount of coverage you chose, you could receive a car accident insurance settlement to cover your expenses.
You could also file a claim with your insurance company to use your medical payments coverage, if you have it. The benefit of using MedPay is potentially avoiding any upfront costs. MedPay is similar to health insurance in that payments get made directly from the insurance carrier to your medical provider. You can use this coverage up to the limit on your policy. Once you reach the limit, you can pay for your treatment using your health insurance, Medicare, or out of pocket.
What If I’m The Victim Of A Hit-and-Run Crash?
You might think there’s not much you’re able to do if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run crash, but that’s when your UM and collision insurance can kick in. Depending on the limits you opted for when you purchased your policy, you could recover compensation for some or all of your expenses, including medical bills and the costs to repair your car.
The following steps are crucial after suffering any type of injury in a hit-and-run accident:
- Stay at the scene of the collision and call the police. Make sure to request a copy of the accident report.
- Write detailed notes about what occurred. Recall information like the other motorist’s license plate number, make and model of their car, date and time the crash happened, and the location.
- Get names and phone numbers from all witnesses.
- Speak to a car accident attorney with experience in handling Georgia hit-and-run claims.
It’s important to contact a lawyer right away because you may be entitled to punitive damages as the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Fleeing the scene of a crash is a criminal offense and viewed as the height of carelessness in Georgia. Punitive damages are meant to “punish” drivers for particularly negligent conduct. If the driver is found, the court may award punitive damages as part of your compensation.
What Happens If The At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance?
In a situation where the at-fault driver’s bodily injury limits don’t cover your expenses, having uninsured motorist coverage (UIM) could be essential to help you recoup the full amount of your losses.
Georgia allows you to purchase two types of UIM insurance: Non-stacking and stacking.
Non-stacking: Also called traditional or reduction coverage, non-stacking coverage can only be accessed if your losses exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits.
Example: You suffered $30,000 in damages in a wreck involving an underinsured driver. You have $30,000 in non-stacking UIM coverage and the at-fault driver has $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance. With a non-stacking UIM policy, the at-fault driver’s insurance would pay $25,000 and your UIM could only pick up the $5,000 difference.
Stacking: Also known as add-on or excess coverage. With stacking UIM, the total amount you purchased is available regardless of how much coverage the at-fault driver has.
Let’s use the amounts from the previous example: If you have $30,000 in stacking UIM coverage and the at-fault driver has $25,000, you could collect $25,000 from the at-fault driver and still have the full amount ($30,000) of UIM coverage accessible to cover your losses.
Comparatively speaking, you can see how stacking UIM could be the better option in the event of a catastrophic wreck, where medical costs alone can well exceed a driver’s minimum policy limits.
Will My Car Insurance Policy Cover My Injuries?
Car accident insurance claims cover certain expenses. Georgia’s minimum requirements provide compensation for injuries and other losses up to the policy limits. You may have additional avenues for compensation depending on the types of coverage you chose. It’s wise to have an attorney review your policy to make sure that you collect compensation from all possible sources. Sometimes, people may not even know what types of coverage they opted for or how it can help.
For example, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage must be declined in writing. If your insurance agent did not offer it or get your rejection on paper, this could be a source of compensation for you even though you didn’t buy it.
After you file a claim, the assigned insurance adjuster will either approve or reject it. If it’s approved, you could receive compensation for any expenses related to your treatment as well as other damages. Before accepting any settlement, consult a trusted Georgia car accident lawyer to determine your legal options.
Car Insurance Vs. Health Insurance For Car Accident Injuries
If you’re unsure whether to send your medical bills to your auto insurance carrier or health insurance company, specific clauses in your policies might make that decision for you. Most health insurance carriers require injured individuals to use their entire medical payments coverage before filing claims with them.
If your health insurance doesn’t have that clause, you could then choose which carrier to use first. Making that decision is difficult, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Talk to a knowledgeable lawyer at The Champion Firm, P.C., for advice on which paths are open for you.
Should I Get A Lawyer For My Car Accident Claim?
You are not required to hire an attorney to represent you in a car accident claim. But you should consider it, especially if someone was seriously hurt or there are questions of who is at fault.
The benefit of hiring an attorney is that you will have someone with knowledge of what cases like yours are worth. A lawyer is also familiar with ways that claims representatives might try to reduce or deny your claim. By conducting a thorough investigation, your legal team will be able to anticipate those challenges and refute the arguments.
How Can A Lawyer Help With My Car Insurance Claim?
Getting injured in a car accident is stressful enough without trying to navigate complex legal procedures. When you hire a lawyer, he or she could help you:
- Determine fault in the crash
- Obtain crucial evidence
- File an insurance claim on your behalf
- Submit appropriate documentation and forms for review
- Communicate with the insurance adjuster
- Represent you during settlement negotiations or at trial
Your lawyer will fight for you to receive the maximum compensation available in your claim. But remember that no attorney should ever promise a favorable outcome. If he or she does, shop around for another lawyer.
How Can The Champion Firm, P.C., Help Me?
If you or your loved sustained injuries in a car accident, call or contact our legal team, The Champion Firm, P.C., immediately. We’re committed to providing our clients with outstanding legal assistance. Whether we’re negotiating with your insurance company or preparing to take your case to trial, you can count on us to provide you with top-quality legal services and compassionate care.
We offer free consultations to all prospective clients. Call (404) 594-5045 to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer.