It’s football season, and many of you will be coming to Athens for some exciting football, great food, excellent music, and good times with friends. You might even be taking some road trips to see your team play. Folks will be traveling from near and far all over our State. So as you gear up for road trips, or go out to grab refreshments for the home games, let me provide some general information about checking your insurance.

Let me just say, like it or not, Uninsured Joe is on the road this fall.

Uninsured Joe is a person with little to no auto automobile insurance for the crashes he causes. Now in my 20th year practicing law, I’ve learned the sad fact that many drivers in Georgia have little to no auto insurance, despite the law, and that is a problem for you. Most people already know that their own automobile liability insurance coverage gives a certain level of protection when they are at fault for a wreck. But what happens if you get hit and hurt by Uninsured Joe? Since Joe does not have enough insurance (and likely few assets), you must dig in your own wallet or seek your own insurance. And that can be expensive!

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (“UM”) can offer some protection from wrecks caused by Uninsured Joe, whether he’s totally uninsured (driving illegally with no insurance at all) or underinsured (he does not have enough to cover the harm he caused). You are literally buying insurance from your carrier for the risk of being hit by someone who did not buy enough insurance. Sounds unfair, but you are protecting yourself from Uninsured Joe, you are not protecting Uninsured Joe himself. So after hearing this, I imagine folks asking, “1) how much UM should I buy? and 2) what type of UM should I buy?” The general idea is to get as much as they will sell you and make sure it is the good kind.

As much as they will sell you. You’re entitled to buy as much UM as you have in your liability limits. Make sure your liability limits are what they need to be, and then make sure your UM limits are the same. It’s been my observation that it seems pretty cheap insurance, all things considered, to protect you, your family and anyone inside your car from wrecks caused by Uninsured Joe. Discuss with your insurance professional having your UM limits equal your liability limits, and you will in effect be trying to “Do unto those you love, as much as you do for perfect strangers.” That seems like a no brainer to me.

Make sure it’s the good kind. All UM insurance is not created equal. There are two types, so let me use an ice cream reference, and call them One Scoop (the “bad kind”) and Two Scoops (the “good kind”). One Scoop is the “bad kind” only because it does not ADD ON to the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. Instead, it is offset by their liability insurance. Offset is bad. Let’s say you have $50,000 of “bad” UM and you are hit by a person who has $50,000 of auto liability, your UM doesn’t add to the $50,000 in liability and you only have $50,000 in total insurance. If you have $50,000 of “good” UM insurance, your UM is added to their liability limits and you would have $100,000 of total insurance coverage. In UM Insurance, just like in ice cream, add on is good.

UM protects you in multiple ways. If your household has several cars and policies, you might be able to stack your family’s UM policies on top of each other. If you have 4 cars with separate policies, that might give you 4 policies to stack. That’s a lot of scoops! Also, your UM can follow you and some members of your household even if you are not in any of those cars during the wreck! It can even cover you as a pedestrian walking down the road if you get hit. Many injured people or their loved ones come to my office after a wreck has upended their lives. All too many times the at-fault-driver has insufficient insurance to make the situation right and a full recovery is just not an option. Consider these issues with your insurance professional or your lawyer, and get the most UM you can and make sure it’s the good kind, y’all.2

This article is general information only and does not constitute the legal advice or the engagement of legal services. This may be considered legal advertisement for which the attorney has paid/given value. Blaine Norris, Esq., at Blaine A. Norris, PC, is responsible for its content Injury Law, Y’all.™ is a trademark of Blaine A. Norris, Esq.

2 What amount of liability insurance limits you need is a question beyond the scope of this general article. Please consult your insurance professional or retain a lawyer to make an informed choice on liability and UM types and limits.