Whose Insurance Pays for a Car Accident in Georgia?

Once we buy our auto insurance policy, most of us don’t worry too much what our insurance covers or whose insurance pays when there’s an accident—at least, not until an accident occurs. But these are things we need to think about. The accident rate in Georgia is steadily rising. From 2008 to 2015, motor vehicle accidents in Georgia rose about 26% from 306,342 crashes to 385,221 crashes. And of course they were accompanied by an increase in serious injuries.

Fulton County alone saw 55,833 crashes in 2014. Though we can hope for the best, we should prepare for the worst, which is why it’s important to know just whose insurance covers an auto accident.

Accident victims may sue the responsible party for current and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity and pain and suffering. In its simplest form, the insurance company of the person responsible for an accident pays the damages to the person who was not responsible. An insurance company is only going to pay up to the amount of the policy, after which it is usually necessary to look for additional coverage.  That usually involves looking for umbrella coverage that the other driver may have, or underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage that you have.

 

Who is at Fault for the Accident?

Of course,  more than one party can be responsible for an auto accident, and in Georgia your degree of responsibility governs the percentage of compensation to which you are entitled. Georgia follows a modified comparative fault rule. That means if a court finds you to be 20% responsible, then your compensation will be reduced by 20%. If you are 50% or more responsible, then you are not entitled to compensation at all. If your case settles before trial, then the insurance companies and the lawyers involved in the negotiations consider the percentage of fault when calculating compensation offers or demands.

Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage (“UM”)

You may have the bad luck of being the victim of a crash with an underinsured or uninsured motorist. Of course, your attorney can sue the at-fault motorist directly, but usually people without proper insurance don’t have much in the way of assets to compensate you. For that reason, it’s smart to carry insurance that protects you against underinsured or uninsured motorists.

When Employees or Independent Contractors Cause Accidents

Sometimes a person gets into an auto accident while acting in the course and scope of their work. If that person was an employee of a company or another person, or if a company or another person controlled the time, manner, and method of the person’s work, then you may have additional options.  O.C.G.A. §§ 51-2-2, 51-2-5.

  • If they are driving their own car, but the employer is reimbursing mileage, the employer’s insurance may be liable for your injuries. In fact, the amount the IRS recommends paying for mileage takes the cost of insurance coverage into account.
  • Should the employee while in the scope of employment cause an automobile accident that injures a third party, the employer can be held responsible under long standing legal theories.
    • Respondeat superiorholds that an employer is legally responsible for wrongful acts committed by their employee if done so in the scope of employment.
    • Vicarious liability holds that a special relationship exists between employer and employee (or others such as parent and child) that imposes responsibility on the employer for the action of the employee.
  • If employee is injured in the scope of employment, workers’ compensation would apply, and the employee could look to their employer to compensate them.

Liability Insurance Requirements and Beyond

In Georgia, an individual must carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person and $50,000 per collision. The law also requires a minimum of $25,000 in property damage liability coverage per occurrence. This liability insurance covers the other party if you are at fault in an automobile accident. Of course, many people decide to buy more coverage, because if they are found to be responsible for an auto accident, the minimum bodily liability coverage will not go far in covering medical expenses. And when someone doesn’t carry enough liability coverage, an accident victim can come after his or her personal assets.

If you want to cover your own car, you must buy physical damage insurance which is not required under Georgia law.

In addition to liability coverage, some people choose to buy umbrella insurance policies. An umbrella insurance policy works like extra liability insurance. It may provide additional monetary coverage above the limits of the person’s liability insurance. It may also cover claims that would have been excluded by the liability insurance policy. If the person is in an accident, the liability insurance will pay first, and then the umbrella policy will pay next.  The umbrella policy will pay for anything covered by the policy, up to the limits of the umbrella policy.  Often, umbrella policies have limits of $1 million or $2 million.

Compensation for Personal Injuries and Property Damage

In some states, if you are in an accident, you can just file a claim against your own personal injury protection, and your insurance company will pay you no matter who was at fault. But that’s not how it works in Georgia. If you are injured in Georgia, the insurance company of the at-fault party pays.

In order to be compensated, you can do any of the following:

  • Your attorney could help you file a claim with your insurance company. Your insurance company will then negotiate or sue the other party’s insurance company for your compensation.
  • Your attorney could directly negotiate with the other party’s insurance company.
  • Your attorney could file a personal injury lawsuit in court.
  • You could handle the case without an attorney if you choose.

Getting Compensation from Insurance Companies

Once the question of who is liable is established, there is still the question of how much you should be compensated.  This is a big question, any many people don’t think about it as much.  The question of how much the insurance company will pay is just as important as whether the insurance company will pay.

The property damage should be easy to calculate, but damages due to your personal injuries can be more difficult to determine. If you were severely injured, you could have medical expenses for years or even for the rest of your life. You may also have missed work or had to use sick days or vacation days due to your injury. You may have reduced earning capacity or possibly may never work again. In addition, you deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering if your injuries were extensive. If you take whatever the insurance company offers you, you may find yourself with ever-increasing medical bills in the coming years without any way to pay them. In order to protect your future and that of your family, consider consulting with a good Atlanta personal injury lawyer. They can explain your options and the complexities of your case, and work to get you the compensation you deserve.