Failure to immediately notify your own auto insurance company when an uninsured or unknown driver hits you can result in the denial of your claim – even though it’s your own insurance and you were not even the at-fault party.
It seems hard to believe, but Georgia laws regarding the notification to insurance companies allows insurers to deny claims for their own clients simply because they were not timely notified of an accident – even if the notification occurs just a few days after the crash. There are even additional notification requirements when you are hit by an unknown driver due to a hit-and run situation.
Call Immediately or Potentially Lose Your Coverage for Lack of Notice
Therefore it is best practice to immediately contact your own auto insurance company when you have been in a crash, even before you contact the insurer for the at-fault driver. The second thing you should do is hire an attorney to find all other policies of insurance potentially covering the crash.
The common scenario is this: You’re driving down the road and are hit by another driver, suffering property damage to your car and injuries that require medical treatment. The at-fault driver provides you their insurance card so you can file a claim. A week after the crash, you learn that the insurance company the at-fault driver provided to you and to the police is an invalid policy. Therefore there is no insurance coming from the at-fault driver.
Hopefully, your own insurance company is there to save the day. Most policies of auto insurance in Georgia are written to include “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage,” commonly referred to as “UM” coverage. This is additional insurance which you purchase as part of your policy to provide coverage in the event you are hit by an uninsured or unknown driver. The minimum amount of coverage in Georgia is $25,000 per person, and $50,000 per accident. However, you can purchase policy limits in much higher amounts than this, and I encourage to get the maximum amount of coverage you can afford.
If you purchased UM coverage, your claims will be covered as if your own insurance was the at-fault party’s insurance. But there is a catch. If your UM policy required you to notify the insurance company within 24 hours or 48 hours after the accident, your failure to do so may result in a denial of coverage. So even though you just now learned the at-fault driver was uninsured a week after the wreck, the insurance you paid for will not cover you because you missed your notification deadline. It seems unbelievably harsh, but Georgia courts have upheld these types of coverage denials.
So the best practice is to immediately notify your own auto insurance company about the wreck before you even contact the at-fault driver’s insurance. Better yet, get it in writing through an email or fax, and make sure you get a claim number.
One reason it is so important to hire an attorney to assist you with your accident claim is that there may be additional insurance of which you were not aware. For instance, most people who are not personal injury attorneys do not know that they may be covered by the auto policies of other relatives with whom they are living. By law, all Georgia UM policies are written to cover resident relatives. So if you are living with your brother or parents, their policies would provide additional insurance to pay your claim should you need it, even if you are not named on the policy.
However, unless you hired an attorney, you probably would not know to contact their insurance companies as well. So a month after the accident when you arrive in an attorneys office and learn this, it may be too late to put your relative’s insurance companies on notice.