We are handling a case for a very nice lady who was badly hurt when she was hit by a 20 something in Savannah. The police report merely indicated that the defendant driver was driving her dad’s Mercury. We sent a demand letter to her insurance carrier and we got an unexpected letter back indicating that the Defendant was an employee of the Georgia State Department of Agriculture and was on the job (in lawyerspeak she was in the course and scope of employment) at the time. This can be a huge problem because Georgia law generally provides that State employees are immune from being personally sued when they screw up discretionary acts.
Fortunately, another attorney and I were discussing the problem and he had briefed a similar issue years before and pointed me to an exceptional case. Tinsley v. Worldwide Ins. Co.212 Ga. App. 809 (1994) is a 1994 Court of Appeals decision that says that when the defendant driver has official immunity that makes them uninsured and allows you to proceed against your own Georgia uninsured motorist coverage.
Typically OCGA 33-7-11 requires that before you get a chance to recover from your uninsured motorist coverage, you are able to take a judgment against the defendant. For example, if your lawyer does not file the lawsuit against the other driver within the Georgia statute of limitations, you cannot go after your uninsured motorist coverage. The law says that you must be in a position to take a judgment against the bad guy that you in order to get to your UM coverage. In the Tinsley decision, the Court said that official immunity bars suits against government employees and that makes them uninsured for purposes of the statute. In other words, you can sue them and your own uninsured motorist coverage will protect you against the loss. It is a very well thought out decision that protects consumers in the State of Georgia who might otherwise have no recourse.
I want to thank Jim Neuberger for bringing this case to my attention.