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Complexity of Legal Issues

This article gives a mere “thumbnail” sketch of the insurance coverages and legal issues which immediately arise moments after an automobile collision. As a practical matter, when there is no personal injury (or at least no significant injury) arising from the accident, most insurance coverage issues go away pretty quickly. Property damages are covered by the various property damage coverages discussed above. However, once a personal injury claim is known to these various insurance carriers, a bodily injury claim file is opened, a claims adjuster is assigned, and the game begins. This article, while definitely helpful in understanding how the various insurance coverages interact, cannot predict how each case should be handled and should not be confused with sound, thoughtful legal advice based on the circumstances of your case.

Our Firm takes great pride in developing all pertinent facts relative to the various sources of recovery for you. Early in his career, Ted D. Morgan represented and worked for the insurance companies who are now denying your claim. What could be more important in choosing the right lawyer to represent you than knowing how to handle the claims adjuster and manipulate these various forms of insurance coverage to maximize your “take-home pay” from your claim.

Automobile Insurance – What to Buy and Why

November 5, 2007

You have just been involved in an automobile collision.  You think the accident is the other guy’s fault, but you are not sure.  Police officers arrive, and because you are not feeling so good, you leave the scene in an ambulance heading to the nearest emergency room.  Your car is being towed to a storage facility.  The police officer finds Driver 1 (you) at fault for running a red light.  However, a witness at the intersection places you under a caution light and says Driver 2 was speeding.  Your neck and back continue to ache for days after the accident bringing a new definition to the word “pain.”  Your phone is ringing off the hook with claim adjusters, medical bill collections, health insurance agents, rental car agents, garage and auto repair representatives and yes, lawyers.

Weeks later, you have unpaid medical bills, and an automobile you cannot use because an insurance company has not yet approved its repairs or (if a total loss) will not pay what the vehicle was worth.  You were injured and now unable to work.  Worse still, your household bills are beginning to get behind.

Is there any insurance coverage which can help with these problems?  The answer depends on what coverages you purchased, and in what amount.

Some of the common types of coverages available under an automobile insurance policy are discussed below.

Declarations Page

This is the “roadmap” to the coverages under your automobile insurance policy.  Commonly known as the “Dec Page,” it reflects the types of coverages, and the dollar amounts of those coverages “in force” on the date of the accident.

A typical “Dec Page” may contain the following:

Coverage and Liability

A    BODILY INJURY $25,000 EACH PERSON $50,000 EACH ACCIDENT

A    PROPERTY DAMAGE $25,000 EACH ACCIDENT

C    UNINSURED MOTORISTS BODILY INJURY $25,000 EACH PERSON $50,000 EACH ACCIDENT

C    UNINSURED MOTORISTS PROPERTY DAMAGE $25,000 EACH ACCIDENT

D    COLLISION – ACTUAL CASH VALUE $500 DED.

E    MEDICAL PAYMENTS COVERAGE $5,000

Here is a brief explanation of how each coverage applies to your accident.

A    BODILY INJURY $25,000 EACH PERSON $50,000 EACH ACCIDENT.

  • If the accident is your fault …
  • This is your liability coverage …
  • Payable to the other driver or anyone else injured;
  • It protects your assets against a claim of personal injury against you.
  • The “Limits” of coverage provided are usually stated in the same fashion as above, i.e. “per person/per accident”.  For example, “25,000/50,000” means your policy provides up to $25,000.00 of coverage per person, but limited to a total of $50,000.00 for all persons injured.  So, no matter how badly the other driver is injured, your policy will pay no more than $25,000.00 to that one person.
  • IT DOES NOT PAY YOU ANYTHING FOR YOUR INJURY
  • Georgia law mandates that every automobile policy issued in this state carry a minimum bodily injury coverage in the amount of $25,000.00/$50,000.00.

A         PROPERTY DAMAGE $25,000 EACH ACCIDENT

Same as above, except it pays for the “other guy’s” auto (property) damage. Often, the dollar limit of this coverage is stated in conjunction with the PI coverage.  For example, 25,000/50,000/15,000, the property damage coverage is the third (or last) in the sequence.

C    UNINSURED MOTORISTS BODILY INJURY $25,000 EACH PERSON $50,000 EACH ACCIDENT

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (a/k/a “UM” or “UIM”).
  • Arguably, the most important type of automobile insurance coverage you can carry…
  • Why?  Because it protects you
    • when you are injured …
    • and the at-fault driver either …
      • failed to carry liability coverage, or
      • failed to carry an amount of coverage necessary to satisfy your claim.
  • UM coverage requires that you have a legal right to recover these damages from another party (typically, the at-fault party), so if the accident was solely your fault, this coverage is not applicable.
  • Georgia law limits the effectiveness of UM/UIM coverage because it reduces the limits of your UM coverage by the amount of BI coverage carried by the at-fault driver.  However, this should not deter a Georgia driver from purchasing UM coverage.
  • Alabama law, on the other hand, allows you to “stack” your UM coverage limits on top of the BI limits carried by the at-fault driver.  The Alabama approach maximizes the UM coverage.

D    COLLISION – ACTUAL CASH VALUE $500 DED.

Collision Coverage.

This coverage pays for the cost of repairing your automobile whether or not the accident is your fault (unlike UM which requires that you show a right to recover against another driver).

It is very helpful to have this type of coverage when the other driver either has no property damage liability coverage or when the other driver’s insurance company denies that its insured was at fault and therefore denies any responsibility to pay your repair costs.  In other words, your car can be fixed without resolving whether or not the accident was your fault.

E    MEDICAL PAYMENTS COVERAGE $5,000

Medical Payments Coverage (MPC)…great news if you have it!

It pays reasonable & necessary medical bills caused by the accident.

It does not matter whether the accident was your fault or not.

Simply forward your medical bills directly to your automobile insurance carrier.

Often, even if your health insurance has paid the majority of your medical bill, MPC coverage will reimburse you directly for the entire bill.  MPC coverage limits will vary ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to $5,000 per accident.

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