In a recent car accident where my client was hit by a drunk driver, we are facing one of the more complex coverage scenarios that illustrates two points. First, it is essential that you carry no less than $100,000.00 in insurance coverage and make sure that your uninsured motorist limits match that amount. Second, this matter illustrates how complex and precarious coverage analysis can be. With any case that will involve uninsured motorist coverage hiring an injury lawyer is essential.
Here we have a drunk driver in Atlanta, Georgia that is carrying a low end Infinity insurance policy. He has what we call a 25/50 policy meaning there are two buckets of $25,000.00 in coverage available to protect all five claimants. However, several of them have Georgia Uninsured Motorist Coverage and there is the issue of the Uninsured Motorist Coverage on the Vehicle they are traveling in. The real question in the case is how to maximize the recoveries to bring the fairest result for all of the clients. Three of the injuries are very serious including skull fractures, a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and the other two injuries are more sprains and strains.
The drunk driver was on Buford Highway in Atlanta near Chamblee and he has the two buckets of $25,000.00 in liability coverage. Infinity does not provide coverage for punitive damages even though a jury would award them. Moreover, the Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Policies do not provide coverage for punitive damages either. (think about it, what purpose would be served in punishing the innocent party’s insurance company) Therefore, the correct strategy is not not seek punitive damages in Georgia and to instead get the alcohol facts into evidence as part of the prima facie case for negligence. The goal is to let the jury know about the facts and let those facts increase the compensatory award.
The driver has a Georgia Uninsured Motorist Insurance Policy for $25,000.00. This policy would also protect the people in the vehicle although under Georgia’s receipt of premium test it would pay our second to Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist policies owned by the passengers. Uninsured Motorist Insurance policies are contracts and they are interpreted under the law of the State where the insured lived when they made the contract. However, Georgia Courts have held that the question of who pays first is controlled by Georgia law. One of the seriously injured passengers hails from California and has a $15,000.00 UM policy. When in Georgia though, it automatically increases to $25,000.00. California does not allow UM stacking and whether he can stack the $25,000.00 in coverage on the 4 Runner with his California $25,000.00 to create $50,000.00 in Uninsured Coverage will come down to the policy language.
The injured passenger with the broken ribs is a South Carolina resident and she has a $25,000.00 Uninsured Motorist policy as well. South Carolina does allow stacking so hers should stack with the Car’s policy nicely. Fractured Ribs in Georgia usually aren’t worth $50,000.00 but with the alcohol issues, the argument can be made.
The driver of the 4 Runner has severe facial fractures and he has a $25,000.00/$50,000.00 Georgia Uninsured Motorist Policy.
Without careful planning, this case would yield poor results because the at fault driver has minimum insurance limits. By approaching the policies from a holistic point of view, the recoveries for the families can be coordinated in a way that is fair for them all and gets as close to justice as is possible.