Georgia House Panel OKs Uninsured Motorist Change Despite Warnings

April 16, 2007

The Georgia House Judiciary Committee gave the green light last week to a measure that would overhaul the way insurance companies pay for accidents involving underinsured drivers, despite warnings from Georgia’s top insurance official that it could hike insurance premiums by up to 20 percent.

The measure would allow some car crash victims to tap into their uninsured motorist plan if the wrongdoer’s policy doesn’t cover the entire cost of the car crash. State Sen. Cecil Staton, the bill’s sponsor, said allowing insurance companies to “stack” the policy brings more fairness to the system.

But Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine warned committee members it could cost Georgia drivers an estimated $400 million more in monthly premiums each year, and argued that the state should continue to allow drivers to decide whether to pay extra for the option.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to put the burden on citizens without weighing all these options,” he said.

Under current Georgia law, if a driver with $50,000 in liability coverage causes more than that amount in damages, then the insurance of the victim’s car is kicked in. But the “uninsured motorist” policy would only pay the difference between the policy’s limit and the figure paid by the insurance of the driver who caused the wreck.

Staton said that means if both policyholders have the same amount of coverage and the accident costs thousands of dollars more, then the innocent driver could be left holding the bag. His proposal requires the victim’s insurance company to cover the rest.

“We at least owe them the decency of allowing them to get what they pay for,” said Staton, R-Macon. “To get all of what they pay for.”


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