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Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured Motorist Coverage Explained

Uninsured motorist coverage is truly a category of coverage that every driver should have. In fact, a number of people are often surprised when they find out that they do not have uninsured motorist coverage when they respond that they have “full coverage.” The truth is, full coverage is generally described as auto insurance coverage that provides state minimums for liability coverage, comprehensive, and collision coverage. 

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11 governs who may be entitled to uninsured motorist coverage. It is a complicated and lengthy statute. Below is a breakdown of the main components of Georgia’s uninsured motorist statute, what amount of coverage is available, and who may be entitled to coverage:

Who is Uninsured?

An uninsured automobile is one as to which there is no insurance applicable under the facts surrounding the occurrence on which the claim is made. American Protection Ins. Co. v. Parker, 150 Ga. App. 732, 258 S.E.2d 540 (1979). In other words, this coverage applies when the driver who caused your injury did not have insurance, and this occurs under a number of scenarios:

  • At fault driver was uninsured.
  • Coverage Denial from At-Fault Driver’s Insurance Company – Denial of coverage by a liability insurance carrier resulting from exhaustion of the available coverage by payment of other valid claims constitutes a “legal denial of coverage” under subdivision (b)(1)(D)(iii). Knight v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 184 Ga. App. 312, 361 S.E.2d 190.
  • Hit and Run Driver who was Not Caught – When a hit and run occurs, this is treated by uninsured motorist insurers as when the at-fault driver did not have insurance coverage. Even though plaintiff knew the identity of the registered owner of the vehicle that hit him before he filed his lawsuit, because he did not see, and did not know, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the collision, he properly filed a “John Doe” action under the alternative language of the uninsured motorist statute. Finch v. Doe, 247 Ga. App. 298, 543 S.E.2d 105 (2000).

In these scenarios, if you have the coverage, you are able to get the uninsured motorist policy to cover your automobile repair bills if you have collision coverage, payment for medical bills if you have medpay or PIP, and payment for your medical bills, lost wages and your pain and suffering if you have uninsured motorist coverage.

Excess v. Reduced-by Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Excess or add-on

Excess coverage, sometimes referred to in policies as “add-on” coverage, applies in addition to the limits of the at-fault driver’s coverage.

Take for example an at-fault driver who has $50,000 in liability coverage. If an injured person’s case value exceeds the $50,000 policy limits, then uninsured motorist coverage applies. If the injured person has $50,000 in excess uninsured motorist coverage, then this means that the injured person has a total of $100,000 in insurance coverage that is available to pursue.

Reduced by

Reduced by coverage applies if uninsured motorist coverage is more than the at-fault driver’s coverage. If a policy is “reduced by,” then the policy coverage is reduced by the limits of the at-fault driver’s coverage.

Take for example the same scenario above, where the at-fault driver has $50,000 in policy limits. If the injured person has $50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage, but the insurance policy is a “reduced-by” policy, then this means that the injured person has a total of only $50,000 in insurance coverage that is available to pursue. This is because the $50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage is reduced by the $50,000 in liability limits, which means $0 is available in uninsured motorist coverage. 

How to Get UM Coverage if it’s Not on Your Own Policy

What if you’re injured by a hit and run driver, or a driver who is uninsured, and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage? There are other ways to obtain uninsured motorist coverage. The following below is a list of how to get it:

If you’re a driver or passenger in a vehicle that has uninsured motorist coverage, then you can avail yourself of UM coverage.

This is an often overlooked form of uninsured motorist coverage. This applies in rideshare cases such as Lyft or Uber, who each have $1 million in uninsured motorist coverage for passengers who are transported for each company.

If you are named on another person’s UM policy, then you can apply that UM coverage to your case.

This is pretty straightforward. This often applies in cases such as when a child is named on a parent’s uninsured motorist policy when the child is in another person’s vehicle when the automobile accident occurs.

Children of parents who are drivers or passengers in a vehicle not owned by the parents are entitled to their parents’ UM coverage if their parents name them on their policy. This applies regardless of whether the child is an adolescent, teenager, or adult.

If you reside in the same household with a relative who has UM coverage, then you can avail yourself of UM coverage.

In determining whether a relative is a resident of the named insured’s household, a court generally considers both the language of the insurance policy and the aggregate details of the family’s living arrangements. Daniel v. Allstate Ins. Co., 290 Ga. App. 898.

There are a number of legally established ways that Georgia’s resident relative UM provisions can apply to your case:

  • This rule applies to spouses who live in the same household, even when one is not on the other’s UM policy.
  • Siblings may also avail themselves of the resident relative rule.
  • It is even possible for adult stepchildren to avail themselves of the resident relative rule for getting uninsured motorist coverage. Boston v. Allstate Ins. Co., 218 Ga. App. 726.
  • In the context of extended family, “the husband is related by affinity to the blood relatives of the wife, and the wife is likewise related to the blood relatives of the husband. Rutledge v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 249 Ga. App. 361. Furthermore, uninsured motorist coverage applies not only to the owner of an insured automobile but to his spouse and relatives of either if they live in his household. It covers them while riding in the insured car, or in any other automobile or while pedestrians if the injury is caused by an uninsured motorist. American Protection Ins. Co. v. Parker, 150 Ga. App. 732, 258 S.E.2d 540 (1979).
  • The named insured and, while resident of the same household, the spouse of any such named insured and relatives of either” are insured persons even where the “insured automobile” is not in any way involved in the insured’s injuries. Gulf Am. Fire & Cas. Co. v. McNeal, 115 Ga. App. 286, 154 S.E.2d 411 (1967).

Two important caveats follow with every scenario involving the resident relative rule:

Relatives are not covered unless they are residents of the same household, and the resident is not covered unless the resident is a relative. The clause, “resident of the same household,” does not apply to a relative, however close, living elsewhere, nor to a resident of the same household who is not a member of the family. Cotton States Mut. Ins. Co. v. McEachern, 135 Ga. App. 628, 218 S.E.2d 645 (1975).

Permanent residence of the relative in question is not required. Evidence that the insured’s stepson intended to live in his stepfather’s house until his divorce was final created a question of fact as to whether he was a “resident relative” at the time of the accident; neither the policy language at issue nor state law required the stepson to live with his stepfather permanently in order to qualify. Boston v. Allstate Ins. Co., 218 Ga. App. 726, 463 S.E.2d 155 (1995).

Find out if uninsured motorist coverage applies to your case. Call 404-549-6742 or submit a case evaluation form online to request a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney at the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel.