1. Auto or trucking insurance liability policies;
2. Uninsured/underinsured motorist policies, known as “UM” policies; and
3. Medical Payments Coverage, known as “med pay.”
1. Liability Insurance PoliciesUnder Georgia law, every driver must have a minimum of $25,000 in available liability insurance to pay for any personal injuries a careless driver causes to you in an auto accident. This is referred to as “minimum limits.” Many individual drivers carry much higher limits of liability insurance, which may be as high as a million dollars or more. For a trucking company, the “minimum limits” required by law depends on the type of trucking company, but may start at $1 Million and go up from there. Not only will the liability insurance company pay for any verdict rendered against the injured driver, the liability insurance company will also hire and pay for a lawyer to represent the careless driver. This is true even though Georgia juries are generally not allowed to know about the existence and extent of insurance coverage available. (See “Can I Sue the Insurance Company.”)
2. UM CoverageThe second type of insurance coverage that may be available to pay your claim is known as UM coverage. This is a coverage that YOU, the injured party, may have available under your own auto insurance policy. It is not required by law, but is a GREAT IDEA to purchase it.
Just think of UM coverage as insurance you buy to protect yourself from other drivers who do not have enough insurance to cover the injuries they cause in an auto or trucking accident. Let’s assume that you are involved in a car crash caused by a careless driver who ran a stop sign and crashed into you and broke your femur. As a result, you had surgery where the surgeon installed a titanium rod and screws into your femur. Your medical bills are $100,000. Plus, you have lost the normal use of your left leg forever. Lets assume that the total value of your personal injury claim is $1 million (consisting of $100,000 in medical bills, and $900,000 in pain and suffering for loss of a healthy left leg.)
Now, let’s look at the careless driver’s liability insurance policy, which turns out to be only $100,000. This policy will cover your $100,000 in lost medical expenses, but what about the other $900,000 of your injury claim? This is where your own UM coverage would kick in and pay for any of your damages not covered by the liability policy, up to the amount of your UM policy limits. So, it is important for you to purchase as much UM coverage as possible in case you are injured by a driver who does not have enough liability insurance coverage for your injury claim.
Finally, UM coverage is a great idea because it provides very broad coverage to you for a wide variety accidents that cause you injuries. Let’s assume that:
• a careless driver crashes into your car and then flees the scene. You cannot locate the careless driver. The accident ruptures a disc in your lower back, requiring surgery. UM coverage would cover this claim!
• you are walking down the street and a random car jumps the curb and runs over your leg. Your tibia and fibia are shattered. The careless driver does not have enough liability insurance to cover your damages. UM coverage would cover this claim!
• you are a passenger in a vehicle. The driver runs a red light and crashes into a phone pole, crushing your ribs and sternum. UM coverage would cover this claim!
3. “Med-Pay” CoverageMed-Pay coverage is another optional coverage that you may purchase under your own auto insurance policy. Med-Pay will pay the amount of your medical bills incurred as a result of an auto collision, up to the available limits you decide to purchase. It is a form of no-fault insurance, which means it does not matter if you were at fault. So, even if you were the careless driver who caused the accident, (which would prevent you from seeking payments from the other driver’s liability insurance or from UM coverage), you still could be eligible for med-pay under your own policy. But, it ONLY pays the amount of your medical bills. It does NOT pay for any other types of damages, like pain and suffering.
Again, let’s turn to an example. Let’s assume you have $10,000.00 in med-pay. You are texting on your phone and run a red light, striking a telephone pole. You hit your head and are transported to the emergency room by ambulance. You incur $10,000 in medical bills. Your own Med-Pay coverage would reimburse you for the medical expenses related to your injury