I am happy to report that the Georgia Legislature appears to be headed toward doing something that actually benefits the citizens of Georgia. What is it? A necessary reform in the law that will help make sure that when citizens pay for insurance coverage, they get the benefit of what they pay for.
In this interview Bill Clark of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (GTLA) explains the change in the UM (uninsured motorists) coverage which will become law if SB 276 is enacted. It passed the Senate last year, but got stuck in the House. This year it looks like it may actually make it to the Governor’s desk and hopefully he will sign it.
EVERYONE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND UNINSURED MOTORISTS COVERAGE! UM coverage pays you for damage to you vehicle and injuries to your body (and the bodies of other passengers) if you are involved in an accident with another vehicle that is uninsured or that is underinsured. It is dirt cheap. A lot of people elect not to purchase UM coverage because the law does not require you to have it. But it is a mistake not to have it. If you don’t know what your policy provides, you need to check it and if you don’t have UM coverage, you owe it to yourself and your passengers to get it. It is that simple.
Under the current state of the law, if you purchased $100,000 of UM coverage and you were hit by a vehicle that had a $100,000 of liability insurance, the law prohibited you from getting any benefit from your UM coverage (even though you paid for it) because your UM insurance company got credit for the liabillity coverage of the driver that hit you. It makes no sense, but that is the way the law evolved.
Just be thankful that if this law gets signed by the Governor, if you pay for $100,000 in UM coverage, you will get the benefit of that $100,000 in UM coverage. And remember, GTLA, the trial lawyers of Georgia (of which I am proud to be a member), fought to get this changed.
And when it comes to “agritourism”, GTLA is fighting the insane idea that “agritourism” businesses should not be held responsible for their negligence. Thus, if you want to hunt or fish on someone’s property, and they cause you an injury, you can’t sue them for your injuries unless they were grossly negligent (meaning they just about intended to harm you). However, if exactly the same thing occurred in some other business (Walmart), you could hold them responsible for simply being negligent, failing to exercise ordinary care.
On top of that, the Senate bill, SB 449, is entitled “Landowners Protection Act of 2008.” What does it protect landowners from? Responsibility! This is the kind of irresponsible legislation that is maneuvered through the legislature by some lobbyist paid for by some group, some business interest, that wants special treatment. It is the kind of legislation that moral leadership should oppose.
Here is the entire text of the statute:
(a) A landowner who allows a person who is 16 years of age or older to hunt or fish on the owner´s property shall be immune from civil liability for any acts done by such person on such property, provided that the landowner´s conduct does not constitute gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct.
(b) A landowner who allows a person who is 16 years of age or older to enter the owner´s property for purposes related to agritourism, as such term is defined in subparagraph (p)(7)(B) of Code Section 48-5-7.4, shall be immune from civil liability for any acts or omissions of the landowner that do not constitute gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct.”
Note that it excludes people under 16 years of age. GTLA was instrumental in pointing out that businesses ought not to be encouraged to injury minors needlessly. While I appreciate GTLA’s effort in protecting minors, I cannot help but point out that it makes no sense to encourage hurting people older than 15. Such is the strained wisdom of the Georgia legislature.
So there you have it. On the one hand, our legislature reforms the UM law to make sure consumers get what they pay for. On the other hand, they are considering excusing agritourism businesses for their negligence. One step forward, two steps back.
Someone needs to call their legislators.