Simply said, it is coverage that you add to your automobile insurance policy which would be available to cover your damages if you are injured in a collision caused by someone else and if the at-fault person does not have enough coverage. The at-fault person could be completely uninsured, could be unknown (for example if they left the scene) or could have only minimum coverage.
Minimum coverage may not be enough to compensate you for your damages.
In Georgia you are only required to have liability coverage (which covers someone you injure in a collision) of $25,000.00 per person but no more than $50,000.00 per collision. This is what is known is minimum coverage. Thus, if the person who hit you only has minimum coverage, there is only a maximum of $25,000.00 available to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages. The amount available could be less than $25,000.00 if more than 2 people are injured in the collision. Thus in order to protect yourself, you can purchase uninsured motorist coverage.
How does uninsured motorist coverage work?
By law a Georgia insurer must provide uninsured motorist coverage (UM) in the same amount as the liability coverage you have, unless you affirmatively opt for a lesser amount or you reject UM altogether.So if you have 100/300 coverage ($100,000.00 per person but no more than $300,000.00 per collision) you must have 100/300 in UM unless you have signed something opting for less than that or rejecting the UM coverage altogether.
What is excess UM coverage?
Under Georgia law before 1/1/09, all UM coverage was offset by the amount of liability coverage the at-fault person had. So if you had 100/300 in UM and the at-fault person had 25/50 in liability, then assuming your damages were at least $100,000.00, the first $25,000.00 would be paid by the at-fault person's insurance company, and the next $75,000.00 would be paid by your UM insurance company. The total amount available under both policies was only $100,000.00 however. After 1/1/09, UM coverage is automatically "excess" which means that the at-fault insurance company would pay $25,000.00 and your UM carrier would pay $100,000.00 for a total of $125,000.00.
What about renewal policies?
If you had any UM coverage at all before 1/1/09, your carrier must have let you know about the change in the law and sent you a form where you could opt to keep the new excess UM or where you could elect to have the old type of coverage with the offset. If you did not sign the form then you automatically have the new, excess coverage. If you had rejected UM entirely before 1/1/09 then upon renewal of the policy after 1/1/09 your insurer did not have do give you any option to choose UM.
What should I do?
Look at your auto policy declarations page. This is sent to you every 6 months when you renew your coverage. It will tell you whether you've purchased UM coverage, and if so, in what amount. It will tell you whether your UM coverage is excess or offset. If you do not have UM coverage or if you have offset coverage or coverage of less than your liability coverage, call your agent and find out how much more UM will be. It is usually not very much money but it makes a huge difference if you are injured due to someone else's fault in a collision. If you are injured so badly that you are unable to work, or if you have to have surgery, then you need all the coverage you can get. But you can't buy it after the fact. You must have the UM coverage in place before the collision occurs. Even if you have health insurance, be aware that most health insurance policies require you to repay them for the amount they paid out for your treatment. This is why you need UM to protect yourself.
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