Georgia Uninsured Motorist Insurance: Strict Deadlines

A recent case from the Georgia Court of Appeals highlights just how important it is to comply with your insurance contract's time limits when you have an uninsured motorist claim. It also is an example of why a Georgia personal injury lawyer is needed to properly handle a claim or lawsuit. 

In Sharpe et al. v. Great Midwest Insurance Company et al., Docket Number A17A1421, decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals on December 15, 2017, the plaintiffs had two personal automobile insurance policies with uninsured motorist coverage, as well as an additional policy with coverage through an employer. All three of these Georgia uninsured motorist policies were a potential source of recovery for damages. 

I have written before (click here for prior article) about uninsured motorist coverage and what it is. Basically, if another driver is at fault and strikes you while you, whether you are the other driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian, and the other driver either (a) is not insured or (b) has insufficient coverage to cover your loss, uninsured motorist coverage can provide another source of recovery for the damages.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage is a Matter of Contracts Law

I cannot stress enough that uninsured motorist coverage is a matter of Georgia contracts law. It is an agreement between you and your insurer. Thus, the time period to pursue a claim can be very short compared to typical statutes of limitations. The time limit to properly notify your insurer of a potential claim, accident, or loss is determined by the contract you agreed to when purchasing the insurance coverage. If the insurance company is not notified timely AND in accordance with the method specified in the contract, your claim and right to recover can be DENIED.

The Example of the Sharpe Case

The Sharpe case is a prime example of why it is important to have an attorney handle a Georgia auto accident or pedestrian accident case. The Sharpes notified the applicable insurance companies timely. One of the insurance companies (in which they had two applicable policies) was first notified of the auto accident six months after it occurred. The contract required notification within 90 days. The Court did not excuse the ignorance of the policy holder. The terms of the contract were strictly construed and Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurance company (the appellate court ruled that the lower court was correct in deciding that the insurance company did not have to cover any proved loss).

Similarly, the other insurance company was first notified 15 months after the accident. That contract required "prompt" notice. The Court of Appeals again affirmed in the trial court's ruling in favor of that insurance company. Fifteen months was not prompt and they cited a case where notice more than a year after an accident was not considered "prompt."

Further, to top things off, the lawsuit summons was not properly served which was also a basis for dismissal of the case as to one of the insurance companies. 

Summary

  1. If you have uninsured motorist coverage or are not sure if you have this coverage, speak to an attorney immediately. Insurance contracts can have very strict time limits (and they can be even shorter than 30 days) to notify the company of a claim, loss, or accident. Some contracts have language as to a required way to notify the insurance company.
  2. Lawsuits can be complex and even serving the complaint and summons must be accomplished correctly, which sometimes, such as with uninsured motorist coverage, requires service on a non-party to the suit such as the uninsured motorist insurance company.
  3. Uninsured motorist is a great coverage to protect yourself, your family, and passengers in your vehicle in the event of an auto accident or pedestrian accident with injuries. However, it is best to speak with an attorney immediately following an accident to protect your rights under the contract.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or loss in a traffic accident or pedestrian accident in metro Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.