A new pro-consumer “UM stacking” law has been passed which, beginning January 1, 2009, will allow car and truck accident victims in Georgia to maximize the benefit of any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage contained within their own auto policy and/or any auto policy applicable to the motor vehicle in which they were traveling if it is not their own vehicle. The stated intent of this new statute passed by the Georgia Senate in March 2008 is “to change the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to allow uninsured motorist coverage to be stacked with other available liability coverages.”
On May 14, 2008, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law SB 276 which amends certain parts of O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11 and provides that, effective January 1, 2009, any non-negligent driver or passenger injured in an automobile or trucking accident will have access to both the at-fault driver’s automobile liability coverage, as well as the total amount of UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist) coverage which any injured victims purchased under their own automobile policy (and/or available to them as a passenger while riding in a non-owned car or truck). Under current Georgia law, car and truck accident victims can potentially recoup damages under their own auto policy (and/or the auto policy insuring a non-owned vehicle in which they were traveling at the time of the accident) only to the extent the total amount of UM coverages available to the injured victim exceeds the total amount of the liability coverages available to the at-fault driver. Thus, beginning January 1, 2009, SB 276 changes existing Georgia law by providing that accident victims can potentially recover the full amount of any UM coverage which may apply to them in addition to the amount of automobile liability coverage available to the at-fault driver.
Prior to the passage of SB 276, Georgia remained one of the few states in the Southeast which did not mandate that policyholder’s be allowed access to the full amount of any uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage they had purchased regardless of the amount of liability coverage available to the at-fault driver. After January 1, 2009, insurance companies in this state must allow the “stacking” of an accident victim’s UM coverage as excess insurance over and above the amount of liability coverage insuring the at-fault driver. Currently, twenty-three other states, including Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, allow the stacking of UM coverages purchased by accident victims.
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