Archive for January, 2012

Fulton County Judge: Uninsured Motorist Carrier Liable for Umbrella Policy Limit As Well As Uninsured Motorist Coverage

In 2001, Georgia’s uninsured motorist (UM) law was changed to make the limit of automobile coverage the default amount of UM coverage. A Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Abrohams v. Atlantic Mut. Ins. Agency, 282 Ga.App. 176 (2006), held that provision applied to umbrella policies as well.

In August 2007, Carol Thurman was injured in a motor vehicle accident involving Stephen Brown and an unknown driver who cut across traffic. Thurman later filed suit against Brown and “John Doe,” the unknown driver. USAA, Thurman’s UM carrier carrier, undertook the Doe defense. After a two-day trial, a Fulton County jury awarded Thurman $1,370,031. USAA subsequently filed a motion to reduce the verdict to no more than $300,000, the per-person limit of Thurman’s primary policy’s UM benefits. USAA also argued that Thurman’s umbrella policy, which carried a $1 million per occurrence limit, contained no UM coverage.

USAA contended that, under Abrohams, it should be liable for no more than the $15,000 minimum coverage available under the umbrella policy when it was issued in 1989, along with the $300,000 UM benefits contained in the primary policy. The judge disagreed, ruling that under Abrohams, USAA was liable for the full $1 million umbrella policy limit as well as the $300,000 UM coverage. The judge stated that, under applicable law, unless an insured driver had expressly rejected UM coverage being included in an umbrella policy, that policy’s limits must be available for payout even though the insured never signed up for or paid premiums for such coverage. The judge adjusted the award to $1.3 million. USAA has since filed a second motion for new trial or reduction in the verdict which is pending as of this writing.

For more information, please contact Timothy Buckley III, Esq. at (404) 633-9230.

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