If you’re in a Florida car accident, and you’re entitled to uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage on a Georgia car insurance policy, your case is different than if you’re entitled to Florida uninsured motorist insurance.
I’m going to focus on the differences for people who are entitled to Georgia UM coverage for a Florida car accident.
Georgia Uninsured Motorist Insurance May or May Not Be Excess Over At Fault Driver’s Liability Coverage in Florida
If you’re hurt in a car crash while visiting Florida, then any Georgia uninsured motorist (“UM”) car insurance, to which you’re an insured, follows you to Florida.
The Georgia UM insurance may or may not require a setoff (credit) against the tortfeasor’s BI liability coverage. (I’ll use an example to explain what a setoff is in a moment.)
Whether the Georgia UM insurer gets a setoff will depend on whether it is “traditional” also known as “reduced” Georgia UM insurance, or whether you have Georgia ADD-ON (also known as “excess”) UM insurance.
The declarations page of the Georgia insurance policy will say which UM coverage you have.
How “Traditional” or “Reduced” Georgia UM Insurance Works in Florida Accidents
If you’re insured under a Georgia car insurance policy that has traditional or reduced UM coverage, and you’re hurt in a Florida car accident, UM gets a setoff for the amount of BI coverage available.
The formula is:
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = (Georgia “Reduced” UM Coverage in the Policy) – (Tortfeasor’s BI Coverage Limits)
Example – “Reduced” Georgia UM Insurance in a Florida Accident
A careless driver crashes into you in Florida. The careless driver has $10,000 in bodily injury (“BI”) liability insurance.
You’re insured under a Georgia auto policy with $10,000 in UM insurance.
If the value of your case is $20,000, then the BI insurer should pay you $10,000. However, the Georgia UM insurer doesn’t owe you any money.
This is because a Georgia UM insurer gets a setoff for the amount of BI coverage. This is because you’re insured “reduced” UM coverage.
Let’s use the above formula for the above example.
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = (Georgia “reduced” UM Coverage in the Policy) – (Tortfeasor’s BI Coverage Limits)
Let’s plug in the numbers from the above example
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = ($10,000) – ($10,000)
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = $0
The Georgia UM carrier doesn’t owe anything since you insured under a Georgia “traditional” UM policy.
Now Let’s Look at a Georgia “Excess” or Add-On UM Policy
Let’s use the same facts from the above example except we’ll assume that you have a Georgia add-on (excess) UM policy.
Example – Georgia Add-On UM Coverage in Florida Accident
If the value of your case is $20,000, then the BI insurer should pay you $10,000. The UM insurer would also owe you $10,000.
Since you’re an insured under a Georgia UM add-on policy, the $10,000 in UM insurance is added to the $10,000 in BI insurance, for purposes of available insurance.
The formula for Georgia add-on UM coverage is:
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = (Georgia Add-on UM Coverage in the Policy)
Let’s plug in the numbers:
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = $10,000
Total Maximum Georgia UM Payout = $10,000
The Georgia UM carrier owes you $10,000 since this is a Georgia excess (add-on) UM policy. This is in addition to the BI carrier paying you.
Does a Georgia UM Insurer Have to Pay You for Pain and Suffering if Someone Else Caused Your Florida Car Crash, and You Don’t Have Serious Injuries?
Let me answer this question using a real case (not mine).
Williams was involved in a car accident with a car operated by Megan Habel in Tallahassee, Florida. The automobile driven by Habel was insured by Cincinnati Insurance Company (“Cincinnati”).
After the accident, Williams made a settlement demand on Cincinnati for damages for the personal injuries that she suffered in the accident. Cincinnati didn’t pay because Williams did not have evidence sufficient to satisfy the tort threshold of Florida’s no-fault statute, Fla. Stat. § 627.737(2).
Williams had a Georgia uninsured motorist insurance policy. (The court said that the reason no judgment can be obtained against Habel is not because of the facts of the accident, but because of Florida’s public policy and the statutes (laws) of Florida, which is where the accident was.)
The court said that Williams must be allowed the opportunity to “establish all sums which [she] shall be legally entitled to recover as damages, caused by the uninsured motorist.” Ga. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Williams, 266 Ga.App. 540, 541, 597 S.E.2d 430 (2004). The court said that she is entitled to uninsured motorist benefits.
Injured Person Doesn’t Ever Need to Meet the Threshold if the Careless Vehicle Doesn’t Have PIP
If a careless driver caused a Georgia resident’s injuries in a Florida car crash, and the careless driver DOESN’T have PIP insurance, and the Georgia UM policy says that an insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or driver of an uninsured vehicle, then the Georgia resident won’t have to meet the no-fault threshold in order to get money from his Georgia UM insurer. Dauksis v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 623 So.2d 455, 456 (Fla. 1993).
How Long Do You Have to Notify a Georgia UM insurer of a crash in Florida?
If you’re a Georgia resident that is entitled to Georgia UM coverage, you should notify the Georgia UM insurer promptly (quickly).
One insurance company, Cotton States (now County Financial), had a Georgia auto policy that says that an insured must notify the UM insurer:
no later than 60 days, of how, when, and where the accident or loss happened.
The injured person who made a UM claim waited more than 60 days to notify the UM insurer. The UM insurer then denied UM coverage by arguing that the injured person failed to notify it of the crash in a timely manner.
The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with the UM insurer. The injured person wasn’t entitled to any UM coverage. Manzi v. Cotton States Mutual Insurance Company, 243 Ga. App. 277, 531 S.E 2d 164 (2000).
If you’re insured under a Georgia UM policy, how long do you have to sue for UM benefits from a Florida car crash?
The answer depends on which county in Florida you were injured in.
When You have 4 Years to Sue a Georgia UM Insurer from a Florida Crash
Counties: Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee (2nd DCA)
If an insurance policy with UM motorist benefits is issued and delivered in Georgia, an insured has four (4) years to make a UM claim under that policy for their injuries from an accident in one of the above counties in Florida.
This because of Florida’s borrowing statute § 95.10. Ellis v. United Services Automobile Ass’n, 909 So.2d 593 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005). The facts of Ellis are as follows:
On October 12, 1999, a vehicle driven by Tami G. Lafon merged from the middle lane of State Road 55 in Pinellas County, Florida, to the left lane and collided with a vehicle driven by Winona Ellis.
The impact of the collision caused Ellis’s vehicle to cross the middle lane and collide with a third vehicle in the right turn lane. Lafon was cited for careless driving. At the time of the accident, all three of the drivers resided in Florida.
On October 2, 2003, a little under 4 years after the accident, Ellis filed a complaint in Florida against Lafon seeking compensation arising from the accident. Ellis also sued United Services Automobile Association (“USAA”) seeking UM benefits pursuant to an insurance policy issued to Ellis’s mother, Susan, in Georgia in June 1999.
USAA Argued that 2 Year Deadline Prevents a Late UM Claim (Court Says 4 Years)
USAA argued that Ellis missed the 2 year deadline to sue for Georgia UM benefits. The appeals court disagreed. It said that Georgia law suggests that Georgia courts would apply a longer out-of-state tort statute of limitations so long as that longer statute continued to protect the UM carrier’s subrogation rights without placing the UM carrier in a better position than the tortfeasor. See Stout v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 269 Ga. 611, 502 S.E.2d 226 (1998); United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Reid, 268 Ga. 432, 491 S.E.2d 50 (1997).
Georgia law says that the statute of limitations (time limit to sue) period is the time allowed for service of the defendant in the underlying tort action, which in this case is Florida’s 4-year tort statute of limitations. Because Ellis served the lawsuit on USAA within Florida’s four-year tort statute of limitations for service of Lafon, the defendant in the underlying tort lawsuit, the action was timely as to USAA under Georgia law.
The court said that:
To hold otherwise would directly contravene well-settled Georgia law requiring that the UM carrier not be placed in a better position than the tortfeasor.
Now let’s look at the bad news.
Another Appeals Court Says 2 Years to Sue for Georgia UM Benefits for a Florida Crash
The appeals court said it was aware of another case which reached a different result. Serfozo v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 788 So.2d 278 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000). I talk about Serfozo further below.
In another case, a Florida appeals court allowed a Georgia resident four (4) years to sue for uninsured motorist benefits in Florida. The case was Herman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 923 So. 2d 1291 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2006.
The Hermans were Georgia residents visiting in Florida on May 1, 2001, when they were involved in an automobile accident. They were injured and their car was damaged allegedly due to the fault of an underinsured motorist.
They were insured under a policy issued by State Farm in Georgia which included coverage for damage caused by uninsured/underinsured motorists. State Farm refused to pay their UM claim. Thereafter, the Hermans filed suit in Pinellas County, Florida, on February 2, 2004.
State Farm Argues Georgia Resident Has 2 Years for Georgia UM Claim in Florida Accident (Court Says 4 Years)
State Farm raised the Georgia two-year statute of limitations as a defense to the Hermans’ lawsuit. The appeals court cited the Ellis case. It said that the Georgia residents had 4 years to make a UM claim in Florida.
Instead, it protects the UM carrier’s subrogation rights by applying the tort statute of limitations to UM claims. See Bohannon v. J.C. Penney Cas. Ins. Co., 259 Ga. 162, 377 S.E.2d 853, 853 (1989); Vaughn v. Collum,236 Ga. 582, 224 S.E.2d 416, 416 (1976).
When You May Have 2 Years to Sue a Georgia UM Insurer from a Florida Crash
Counties: Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties (4th DCA)
In Serfozo v. Travelers Indemnity Co., 788 So.2d 278 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000), the 4th District applied Georgia’s 2-year tort statute of limitations to a UM insurer from a Florida car accident. Travelers was the UM insurer in that case.
The Florida appeals court said that Georgia law applied where insurance policy was delivered in Georgia to a Georgia resident whose principal place of business was located in Georgia.
The 4th District Court of Appeals said that the “Georgia [2 year] statute of limitations” applies.
Note: Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal said that “it appears that the 4th District did not fully consider the nature of the Georgia statute of limitations but merely assumed that the two-year tort statute of limitations applied.” Ellis v. United Services Automobile Ass’n, 909 So.2d 593 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).
But don’t rely on this.
Until the Florida Supreme Court resolves this conflict between the appellate courts, make sure to sue a Georgia UM insurer within 2 years of the date of accident in Florida.
Georgia UM Covers You Future Medical Bills and Future Lost Wages Payable by Workers’ Compensation From a Florida Crash
If you’re covered by Georgia UM insurance, it should pay for future medical bills and future lost wages caused by the tortfeasor driver’s negligence.
Does a UM Insurer for a Georgia Resident – Who Is Hurt in Florida – Get a Setoff?
Assume that a Georgia resident is hurt in a Florida car accident. Assume he or she is entitled to Georgia UM insurance.
Georgia’s uninsured motorist law doesn’t say that you can’t recover future medical expenses payable under workers’ compensation. Mabry v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Ga: Court of Appeals 2015.
Thus, if you’re a Georgia resident who is hurt in Florida, you can recover future medical expenses from the UM insurer even if they are payable under workers’ compensation.
Does a Georgia Workers Compensation Insurer Have a Lien Against UM Benefits from a Florida Car Accident?
No. A workers’ compensation subrogation lien doesn’t attach to uninsured motorist insurance benefits. Stewart v. Auto-Owners Ins. Co., 495 SE 2d 882 – Ga: Court of Appeals 1998
Georgia UM May Not Apply to Georgia Residents if No Impact With Another Car in Florida
Georgia UM policies require that there must be physical contact between two vehicles for UM insurance to apply.
However, Georgia law says that if there is no contact between the cars, but there is an independent corroborating witness, this should qualify you for UM coverage.
Florida Residents Don’t Need an Impact to Get Georgia UM Benefits in a Florida Accident
If you’re a Florida citizen, who is an insured under a Georgia UM policy, and in a Florida car accident, you may not need there to be contact between two vehicles to get Georgia UM benefits.
This small exception to lex loci contractus requires both a Florida citizen in need of protection and a supreme Florida public policy. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Roach, 945 So.2d 1160 (Fla. 2006).
Can You Get Punitive Damages from a Georgia UM Insurer from a Florida Car Accident?
Punitive damages may be payable under a Georgia UM insurance policy, although a Georgia resident’s car accident happened in Florida, and Florida public policy doesn’t allow payment of punitive damages under an insurance contract. Federal Ins. Co. v. National Distributing Co., Inc., 203 Ga.App. 763, 417 S.E.2d 671 (1992).
This is an advantage for Georgia residents.
Does a Georgia UM Insurer Owe You Above the UM Limits if It Refuses to Pay You for a Florida Accident?
A Georgia UM insurer owes you above the UM limits for your injury claim from a Florida car accident only if it refuses to pay in bad faith. Georgia law says that refusal to pay in bad faith means a frivolous and unfounded denial of liability.
This is a higher standard than Florida insurers face. It makes suing a Georgia UM insurer for money above the UM limits more difficult than against a Florida insurer.
There is no bad faith if there is any reasonable ground for the insurer to contest the claim. St. Paul Fire &c. Ins. Co. v. Goza, 224 SE 2d 429 – Ga: Court of Appeals 1976.
If a Georgia UM insurer acts refuses to pay your case, is there a penalty?
If a UM insurer refuses to pay (in bad faith) an insured any covered loss by the UM statute within 60 days after the insured makes a demand, the UM insurer may face liability to the insured for reasonable attorney’s fees and the statutory penalty. O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(j).
This penalty may not be more than 25% of the recovery of all money that the UM carrier is liable for. The penalty does not apply to any damages that you recover above the coverage limits.
Arbitration Clauses in Georgia Uninsured Motorist Policies are Invalid
The Georgia Uninsured Motorist Act specifically prohibits any policy provision that requires arbitration of a claim arising under uninsured motorist coverage. O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(g). Even if the auto policy requires arbitration, that language is prohibited.
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