One of the things that surprises me most as a Woodstock personal injury attorney is when I get a call from someone injured in an accident and has no clue whether they have any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on their auto policy.

Having adequate uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is one of the most important things you can do as a Georgia driver. That begs the questions- what is underinsured motorist coverage and what is an adequate amount?

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is the insurance you purchase in the event you are injured through someone else’s fault and that party does not have adequate insurance to compensate you fully for your losses. Depending on the severity of your injury, the at fault party’s insurance (primary coverage), may not be enough.

Therefore, the person who then has Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage has an additional policy to collect against; whereas, the person who either has no uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage or does not have any coverage beyond what the at fault’s party’s coverage is, has no additional policy to collect against.

Let’s throw out some numbers to demonstrate why this is important. Pretend you are injured in a car wreck and you ultimately require surgery, orthopedic visits and physical therapy. Your medical bills exceed $50,000, but the at fault party has only $25,000 in coverage (the minimum liability in Georgia). There is an excess $25,000 in damages in the form of bills, not to mention your pain and suffering and possible wage losses.

The person who has a uninsured/underinsured motorist policy with $50,000 in coverage has additional coverage to pursue, whereas the party without any uninsured/underinsured motorist policy has no one else to collect against (besides the at fault party themselves, who presumably has no assets).

It is also important to note that uninsured/underinsured motorist policies in Georgia are either “add on” or “setoff” policies. In our example, the person with a $50,000 “add on” policy can collect up to $50,000 above the $25,000 in liability coverage. However, the person with $50,000 in “setoff” uninsured/underinsured, has to setoff the $50,000 policy against the $25,000 paid by the at fault party and thus can collect only another $25,000 at most.

Personally, I consider $100,000 per person to be an adequate amount of underinsured motorist coverage. The reason is you simply never can predict whether the person who injures you is even going to have insurance so you always need some party against whom you can collect no matter what. Furthermore, you can never predict who badly you might be injured. As they say, you must “plan for the worst.”

Peter Bricks is a personal injury and bankruptcy attorney in the metro Atlanta area.