This blog is the second in a series of blogs on UM coverage in Georgia personal injury cases. If you have not read my first blog in this series on why UM coverage matters, I would encourage you to read that first.
Too many times, I’ve had to tell someone who tried to handle their case themselves that they have lost the ability to have their UM pay. I usually have to tell them that for for one of two reasons.
1 – Failure to put the UM carrier on notice in the time required by the policy.
Many UM insurance policies now contain language something like below, which was the language that was discussed in a Georgia Court of Appeals case, Manzi v. Cotton States Mutual Insurance Company, 243 Ga. App. 277, 531 S.E. 2d 164 (2000).
DUTIES AFTER AN ACCIDENT OR LOSS
We must be notified promptly, but in no event later than 60 days, of how, when and where the accident or loss happened. Notice should also include the names and addresses of any injured persons and of any witnesses. Receipt of such notice by the company or any of its authorized agents shall be a condition precedent to the existence of any coverage under this policy and of the company’s obligation to defend any claim under this policy.
The Georgia Court of Appeals decided that Lisa Manzi lost her right to make a claim under her UM coverage because she did not properly notify her UM insurance company how, when, and where the accident or lost happened. The court reached this decision even though it was not clear to Ms. Manzi that the driver who was at fault was uninsured or underinsured until long past 60 days after the accident had occurred. This is why when we get involved in a case we ask our clients for information about all potential UM carriers and put those carriers on notice of a potential UM claim. We may never make a UM claim, but we make sure we have taken all steps necessary to allow our client to make a UM claim in case they need that coverage at some point. It is much better to be safe than sorry.
2 – Entering into a release with the liability carrier.
Any time a liability insurer settles a claim with you, they want a release of their insured. If you sign a release of their insured, you can lose your right to make a UM claim. That is because your UM claim has to flow through the at-fault party.
Georgia law does provide for something called a Limited Liability Release under O.C.G.A. §33-24-41.1. A properly worded Limited Liability Release will allow you to settle your claim with the liability insurer and still go after UM carriers. Knowing whether a release is properly worded so that it protects you is not something most people are going to know. I would never trust the liability insurer to provide me with a properly worded release, even if they call it a Limited Liability Release. Also, I don’t recommend you get on the internet and use a release that someone has posted there. If your UM claim matters, it should matter enough to have a free consultation
with a lawyer who deals with these matters every day.
Not all lawyers deal with UM claims. Even those who do may be careless about putting UM carriers on notice. I just had a person come to me after firing her Atlanta television lawyer, and one of the first things I saw was that this big law firm had failed to put the client’s UM carriers on notice. They may have cost her $50,000.
These aren’t the only two ways you can lose UM coverage, but they are the most common. If your injuries matter enough to make a claim, you owe it to yourself to talk to a lawyer who understands UM insurance law and takes all steps necessary to preserve your UM coverage. In my next blog, I will be discussing another important principle of UM coverage law in Georgia, stacking UM coverage.
What if I have more questions about losing UM coverage I paid for?
Settle your claim with the liability insurer with a properly worded Limited Liability Release.
Be sure to put the UM carrier on notice in the time allotted.
If you are interested in a free consultation, email us! Or call us at 770-728-6932