Like almost every other state, Georgia has passed legislation requiring vehicle owners to carry certain minimum amounts of liability car insurance, in the event that they cause a traffic accident on the state's roads and highways. In this article, we'll discuss:
Georgia follows a "fault" system when it comes to financial responsibility for a car accident. This means that an at-fault driver is liable for any personal injury or property damage resulting from the crash, and his or her liability insurance policy will be looked to first in order to satisfy the financial impact of these losses (called "damages" in legalese). After a car accident in Georgia, an injured person can look for compensation for damages in one of three ways:
Note: In no-fault car insurance states, claimants don't have this same range of options. If you're injured in a car accident in a no-fault state, you must turn to your own car insurance coverage for the payment of medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses, regardless of who caused the accident. Only if your claim reaches certain statutory thresholds can you step outside of no-fault and make a claim directly against the at-fault driver. But Georgia drivers don't need to worry about no-fault for an in-state accident.
Georgia requires that the owner of a motor vehicle carry liability insurance on his or her vehicle. The minimum liability coverage you are required to carry in Georgia is:
This basic coverage pays the medical bills, property damage bills, and other costs of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who are injured or have their vehicle damaged in a car accident you cause, up to coverage limits. You can (and in some situations should) carry more coverage to protect you in case a serious crash results in significant car accident injuries and vehicle damage. Remember, once policy limits are exhausted, you are personally on the financial hook, so higher insurance limits can help protect your personal assets in the event of a serious crash.
Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car.
Finally, remember that the liability coverage we discussed here doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay coverage can be used to pay your car accident medical bills, and collision coverage can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.
Georgia does not require that every motorist purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), as long as the policyholder rejects it in writing.
UIM coverage is a supplemental feature of your own policy that is intended to protect you if you get into an accident where the at-fault driver either has no insurance coverage at all, or carries an insufficient amount of insurance to cover your damages.
One twist of Georgia law related to UIM coverage is that the state subdivides UIM coverage into two categories: "New" and "Traditional" coverage. Under Traditional coverage (or "set-off" coverage) your UIM availability is diminished by the other driver's available liability insurance. So, if you have a $25,000 Traditional UIM policy and the at-fault driver has the state minimum coverage of $25,000, the two cancel each other out; your UIM policy is completely set off by the at-fault driver's liability policy. By contrast, "New" UIM stacks on top of the at-fault driver's coverage; using the same numbers, you would have another $25,000 of UIM after the at-fault driver's policy is exhausted. This distinction makes it very important to understand which variation of UIM you have. (It should come as no surprise that "New" UIM coverage is more expensive than Traditional.)
For more information on Georgia's car insurance rules and requirements, straight from the state, check out the Georgia Department of Insurance's Automobile Insurance information page.