When someone is injured in an accident due to negligence, recklessness, or even intentional misconduct, the injured party is entitled to pursue damages for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering from the legally liable party.
Ideally, the injured party (referred to as a plaintiff) will be able to collect compensation, enough to cover their losses and help restore them to where they were before the accident. In the end, the goal is to collect enough compensation that the plaintiff does not end up losing any money; however, insurance policy limits can influence how much the injured party is able to collect.
Automobile Insurance Limits in Georgia
“Policy limits” refer to the cap or limits that an auto insurance policy will pay in an accident. According to the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner:
“Georgia consumers must have automobile liability insurance for at least the minimum limits required by law to drive on the Georgia public roads and highways. The minimum limits of liability required under Georgia law are Bodily Injury Liability of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per occurrence and Property Damage liability of $25,000 per occurrence.
“Liability insurance is insurance that pays damages to others, on behalf of an insured, for injury to or damaged property of others, up to the policy limit, which an insured may have caused by his negligence or may protect him against claims made against him by someone who alleges he was at-fault.”
To simplify that, if you’re involved in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver and your medical bills are in the ballpark of $100,000, but the at-fault driver’s Bodily Injury Liability was only for $25,000, the insurance company would not pay more than the $25,000 – the remaining $75,000 would not be paid by the insurer, even though the drunk driver was at fault.
The At-Fault Driver’s Policy Limits
In many states, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is under no obligation to disclose the driver’s policy limits to the plaintiff(s). Understandably, this can be a challenge because plaintiffs should be able to collect as much compensation as possible to cover their losses.
Fortunately, Georgia is different. Under Georgia law, insurers who are liable to pay all or part of a claim must disclose the policy limits to a claimant within 60 days of receiving a written request from the claimant (plaintiff) to know the insurance policy limits.
“How does someone collect beyond the policy limits?” There are basically three options:
- It may be possible to sue multiple defendants, and in that case each defendant would have their own policy limits.
- If a defendant has an umbrella policy, it can pick up where the auto insurance policy leaves off.
- If the at-fault driver has any measurable assets, the plaintiff can sue the defendant directly. However, this usually only works in cases where the defendant is wealthy.
- The plaintiff’s own insurance policy may be used, if they have Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage. This type of insurance is offered on many auto insurance plans to provide a way for us to protect ourselves in the event that an accident is caused by a driver without insurance, or with insurance that doesn’t cover the full amount needed to cover losses.
Auto insurance policy limits can act as a barrier to collecting much-needed compensation, but they don’t always have to. If you were injured in a car accident, contact Jones & Swanson to meet with a Cartersville car accident attorney who will explore all avenues of compensation on your behalf.