Contract Controls in Uninsured Motorist Coverage

In Cline v. Allstate Property Casualty Insurance, 841 S.E.2d 63 (Ga. Ct. App. 2020), an insured argued that a 2008 statute required uninsured motorist coverage to equal the amount listed for liability coverage in an insurance policy and could not be waived. The insurer argued that the insured had voluntarily opted for a decreased amount.

Cline was involved in an automobile accident in 2016, and incurred medical bills totaling $94,000. After receiving the tortfeasor’s policy limits of $25,000, Cline sought to recover from his uninsured motorist coverage. Allstate argued that Cline’s coverage was only $25,000 due to the language in the insurance contract. Cline argued that due to a 2008 statute, the uninsured motorist coverage was $100,000, an amount equal to his liability insurance. The trial court agreed with Allstate, finding the insured had affirmatively chose the lesser coverage of $25,000. Cline appealed. The Court of Appeals noted that although the default provision for uninsured motorist coverage by statute was the amount equal to the liability limit, an insured was free to reject coverage or affirmatively agree to another amount. Though the insured had chosen the lesser amount prior to the enactment of the statute, the Court found that Allstate had complied with the statute by sending a letter in 2009 explaining the statute. In addition, the Court found that the 2008 statute did not “impact [the insured’s] right to affirmatively choose lesser UM coverage.” Therefore, the contract controlled the amount of uninsured motorist coverage available.

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