What is uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance and why is it important to have in Georgia?  In Georgia, every individual driving a motor vehicle (excluding commercial vehicles like big rigs, which have different requirements) is required to carry automotive liability insurance.  The minimum requirements under Georgia law require the policy to have minimum coverage of

This means that in any type of accident involving the covered driver, the insurance policy will only pay a maximum of $25,000 to any individual injured in the accident, with a maximum combined payout of $50,000 per accident.  Additionally, a minimum coverage auto insurance policy will also only pay for up to $25,000 in property damage (damage to another vehicle, building, etc.).  Many of the well known, as well as highly advertised, insurance providers issue these types of policies.

In Georgia, about 12% of drivers do not have liability insurance. Our neighbors, whose drivers come into Georgia every day are even worse. In Florida 26.7% of drivers are uninsured and in Alabama the figure is 18.4% drivers do not have auto insurance. 

Well what happens if you are in an auto accident where the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance, or the accident results in bodily injury or property damage that exceeds the coverage limits of the insurance policy?  This is where uninsured and underinsured auto insurance come into play.

What is Georgia Uninsured Auto Insurance?

Uninsured motorist insurance (UM) is a type of auto insurance coverage designed to protect you if you're involved in an accident with a driver who doesn't have insurance, or doesn't have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries and damages. In can also come in handy in other instances, such as hit-and-run accidents where the responsible driver cannot be identified.

Here are situations where uninsured motorist insurance comes into play:

  1. No Insurance or Inadequate Coverage: If you're in an accident caused by a driver who doesn't have insurance, or whose insurance coverage is insufficient to cover your costs, your own uninsured motorist insurance policy will step in to help cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage.  The amount of coverage is dependent on the policy.
  2. Hit-and-Run Accidents: If you're involved in a hit-and-run accident where the at-fault driver flees the scene and cannot be identified, uninsured motorist coverage can cover your expenses, just as if the other driver were uninsured.

What is Georgia Underinsured Auto Insurance?

Underinsured Motorist Coverage is often included as part of uninsured motorist coverage.  It's purpose is to kick in when an at-fault driver has insurance, but their coverage limit is lower than the costs you've incurred due to the accident. For example, say an at-fault driver has the minimum coverage required by Georgia law.  Following an accident, the victim has extensive medical treatment due to injuries suffered in the accident and accumulates medical bills of $50,000.   Without underinsured auto insurance, the victim will likely be limited to collecting a total of $25,000 from the at-fault drivers insurance company.  Unless the at-fault driver is independently wealthy, the odds of recovering the additional $25,000 in medical bills is very slim.

Your underinsured motorist coverage can fill in this gap.  If you have underinsured motorist coverage, then your insurance company would be responsible for paying the additional $25,000 for the medical bills resulting from the car accident.

Keep in mind that uninsured motorist coverage generally doesn't cover vehicle/property damage.  It is mainly designed to cover your medical expenses and other costs resulting from the accident.

Does Georgia Require Insurers Provide Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage?

Georgia law requires all automobile insurers operating in Georgia to offer uninsured motorist coverage to policyholders in the same amount as the liability coverage purchased.  Which as previously stated, is a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries, and $25,000 for property damage.

That being said, an insured driver can opt out of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage being included in their policy.  This opt out has to be made in writing.

Should I notify my own car insurance if I am involved in a car accident that is not my fault?

You should always notify your own car insurance if you are involved in a car accident, even if it is not your fault and even if the at-fault driver has insurance.  In order to file a claim for uninsured/underinsured motorist you are required to give the insurance company notice so they have time to investigate the accident.  The old adage "the sooner, the better" applies when giving notice to your uninsured/underinsured about a possible claim, as waiting too long could allow the insurance company to deny payment.

If you or a love one have been injured in an auto accident, give our experienced lawyers a call to discuss your legal options today at (770) 214-2500.

Georgia Lawyers

There are many types of Georgia workers' compensation injuries.  These can range from the typical back strain from lifting a heavy object, all the way to catastrophic injuries which prevent an injured worker from ever working again in the future.  Today's post will discuss common work related injuries and how they are handled in Georgia's workers' compensation system.

Are all work injuries covered in Georgia?

Workers' compensation is a no fault system, so in general, as long as a worker is injured while performing their job the injury is covered.

What is a cumulative trauma injury?

A cumulative trauma injury is an injury that is not the result of a single accident, but occurs over time.   A common type of cumulative trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.  Carpal tunnel syndrome generally occurs as a result of repetitive gripping, grasping, and use of your hands.  A worker suffering from this type of injury generally does not notice any pain at first, but as they continue to to perform repetitive motions with certain body parts they begin to experience pain or numbness.  These injuries can often be treated with rest or modified/light work activity, but may end up requiring surgical intervention.  It is important that you report any type of pain or discomfort caused by any repetitive work, as a paper trail can assist in having your cumulative workers' compensation claim approved.

What is considered a catastrophic injury in Georgia?

In Georgia,  a catastrophic workers' compensation injury typically refers to a severe and life-altering injury.  These injuries usually prevent an individual from ever being able to work again in the future.  In Georgia, some injuries are automatically considered catastrophic.  These include:

Additionally, any injury which would prevent someone from performing their past job, or any other job available in decent numbers, can be deemed "catastrophic."  In addition to rehabilitation benefits not normally offered to an injured worker, individuals suffering a catastrophic injury are eligible to receive replacement income and medical benefits for the rest of their life.  In contrast to the typical workers' compensation injury which has a 400 week limit on replacement income and medical benefits.

What is considered an occupational disease in Georgia?

An occupational disease in Georgia, refers to a medical condition or illness that arises as a direct result of an employee's work  or exposures in the workplace. These diseases are typically caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to hazardous conditions, substances, that are specific to the employee's job.  For example, a fireman who develops asthma due to repeated smoke exposure.  Occupational diseases may not manifest immediately but can develop over time due to cumulative exposure.

Common examples of occupational diseases in various industries include:

 

In Georgia's, for a disease to fall under the workers' compensation act, it generally needs to meet certain criteria, which may include:

  1. Causation: The disease must be caused by the work activities or conditions. There should be a clear link between the work environment and the development of the disease.
  2. Work-Related Exposure: The employee must have been exposed to the hazardous conditions, substances, or activities that are known to contribute to the development of the disease as part of their job duties.
  3. Time Frame: The disease must develop over a period of time due to the cumulative effect of exposure, rather than being caused by a single isolated incident.
  4. Proof of Causation: The employee or their legal representative typically needs to provide medical evidence linking the disease to the workplace exposure.

What if I reinjure, or aggravate. a pre-existing condition while working in Georgia?

As previously mentioned, Georgia's workers compensation law is considered a "no-fault" system.  As long as the injury occurs while performing your job, then it is covered.  This includes reinjuring or aggravating a pre-existing injury or condition.  For example, say a worker injured their back 5 years ago and underwent surgery to repair the injury.  After a course of rehab, the individual returns to work performing a lighter duty job for the next 5 years.  Unfortunately, the worker injures their back again lifting a pallet at work.  Under Georgia law, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment that returns the injured worker back to the condition they were in before the latest back injury.  In this case, the employer/insurer is responsible for providing medical treatment to the injured worker until the worker is capable of performing the light duty work which cause their latest back injury.

Are any work injuries not covered in Georgia?

While most injuries that occur while working in Georgia are covered by workers' compensation, there are a few specific injuries which are barred.  These include:

  1. Self-Inflicted Injuries: Injuries intentionally caused by the employee to themselves are generally not covered.
  2. Injuries Due to Violation of Company Policy: If an employee's injury results from their violation of company policies or rules workers' compensation coverage may be denied.
  3. Injuries Caused by Not Using Supplied Safety Equipment:  In an employee is injured while not wearing safety equipment supplied by their employer, and the safety equipment would have prevented the injury, it may not be covered by Georgia workers' compensation.
  4. Injuries Caused by Intoxication or Substance Abuse: If an employee is injured while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their claim can be denied
  5. Injuries from Horseplay or Personal Activities: Injuries that occur as a result of horseplay, roughhousing, or personal activities not related to work duties might not be covered.
  6. Purely Mental or Emotional Injuries: In Georgia, mental or emotional injuries that do not accompany a physical injury are not covered.  For example, PTSD caused by witnessing a traumatic event would not be covered. unless the individual also a suffered a physical injury due to the event.
  7. Injuries During Commute: Injuries that occur during an employee's commute to and from work are generally not covered.  This does not include injuries for workers required to travel for their job, such as delivery drivers or people workers' who are on-call.
  8. Criminal or Reckless Activities: Injuries sustained while engaging in criminal, or reckless quasi criminal activities (i.e. driving at an excessive speed) are usually not covered in Georgia.

If you or a loved one has suffered a work injury in Georgia, give our lawyers a call at (770) 214-2500 for a free consultation.

Georgia workers' compensation lawyers

 

In the event you are injured in a car accident in Georgia due to the negligence of someone else, the law allows you to recover damages from the individual who caused the harm. These may include compensatory damages, consequential/special damages, and punitive damages.

What is considered "compensation" for a Georgia car accident?

Compensation, or "compensatory damages," is a type of monetary award that is intended to compensate the injured party for their actual losses and expenses resulting from a wrongful act or negligence of another party. The primary purpose of compensatory damages is to make the injured party "whole" again, as much as possible, by providing financial reimbursement for the harm they have suffered.

There are two main categories of compensatory damages: 

  1. Consequential/special damages
  2. General damages

What are considered consequential/special damages in Georgia?

Consequential damages, also known as "special damages," are a type of legal remedy available in certain cases. These damages are different from compensatory damages, which are the immediate and foreseeable losses resulting directly from another individual's negligence or wrongful act.

Consequential damages refer to the additional losses or harm that occur as a consequence or result of another person's negligence. They are not the direct result of the negligence itself but are rather the secondary or indirect damages that flow from the negligence. These damages are generally not evident or foreseeable at the time the negligence is committed.

Examples of consequential damages may include:

What are considered general damages in Georgia?

Also referred to as "non-economic damages," general damages are intended for losses that don't have a precise monetary value.   These types of damages are subjective and can range from a relatively paltry amount all the way up to hundreds of millions of dollars.  These damages are more subjective and are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the non-financial harm they have endured due to the defendant's actions. General damages may include:

What is considered punitive damages in Georgia?

In Georgia, to be eligible for punitive damages, the plaintiff must show by "clear and convincing evidence the defendant's actions demonstrated willful misconduct, malice, fraud, oppression, wantonness, or conscious indifference to the consequences.   The standard of "clear and convincing evidence" is higher than the typical "preponderance of the evidence" standard used for most other civil matters.

Punitive damages are a type of monetary award that goes beyond compensating the plaintiff for their actual losses. Unlike compensatory damages, which aim to make the injured party whole again by reimbursing them for specific economic and non-economic losses, punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct and to deter others from engaging in similar wrongful behavior in the future.

The key features of punitive damages are as follows:

  1. Punishment: The primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for their actions, particularly when those actions are found to be willful, malicious, reckless, or grossly negligent. Punitive damages are meant to act as a form of societal condemnation for the defendant's conduct.
  2. Deterrence: Another purpose of punitive damages is to deter both the defendant and others in society from engaging in similar wrongful behavior. By imposing significant financial penalties, the legal system aims to discourage future misconduct.
  3. Separate from Compensatory Damages: Punitive damages are awarded in addition to compensatory damages. They are not meant to compensate the plaintiff for any specific losses but rather to address the defendant's misconduct directly.

Recently, Georgia enacted a law that imposes a cap on punitive damages. The total amount of punitive damages awarded cannot exceed $250,000 unless certain exceptions apply. Exceptions include cases where the defendant acted with specific intent to cause harm, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or engaged in conduct constituting a felony for which the defendant was convicted.  Additionally, Georgia law grants immunity from punitive damages to certain entities and individuals, such as volunteer organizations, healthcare providers who treat indigent patients, and manufacturers or distributors of certain products.

Being involved in a car accident in Georgia can be a traumatic experience. Individuals involved may suffer serious injuries that require significant medical treatment and, in some cases, long-term care. In 2020, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of injury deaths and the second leading cause of hospitalizations and ER visits in Georgia.  This can lead to undue medical expenses, lost earnings, and other significant damages for which the responsible driver may be held liable.  In order to understand your rights and determine how best to proceed, give the professionals at SWS Accident & Injury Lawyers a call today for a free consultation (770) 214-2500.

 

Georgia Lawyers

 

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