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AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Will your Georgia car insurance rates go up for an accident on ice?


You may be in for some sticker shock if you are among the people involved in the 174 accidents Gwinnett police worked from midnight to about 8:30 Wednesday, the multiple crashes that blocked interstates throughout Georgia,  or the other accidents throughout the state attributed to icy roads.

In some states, insurance companies are blocked from raising rates for individual drivers who are involved in accidents related to "an act of God," such as ice and snow. In Alabama, for example, insurers can't cancel or drop policies or impose surcharges as a result of claims for weather-related causes, acts of nature or natural disasters. (However, insurers in Alabama can remove any discounts that drivers may have had.)

In Georgia, state law bans insurers from imposing a surcharge or cancelling a policy of drivers involved in multi-vehicle accidents for which they are not at fault.  Georgia law also says that insurers can't levy extra charges for policies of police, firefighters, and EMTs when accidents occur in the course of their official duties.

Jo Anne Oni, assistant director of consumer services at the Georgia Department of Insurance, confirmed that Georgia law doesn’t address icy conditions when it comes to auto insurance rates. “There’s no law that says if it’s an act of nature, or due to weather, the insurers cannot claim it as an at-fault accident,” Oni said.

Oni said driving in icy conditions is no different than driving in the rain, when “you have to drive with care and caution.”

Oni added, though, that it’s important to check a policy after an accident because some insurers have a policy  endorsement that forgives the first at-fault accident.

That doesn't mean you won't see a rate hike in the future. If Georgia sees lots of insurance claims from the bad weather, insurers could file for rate increases for everyone. Your best advice then might be to shop around. Here's what the AJC found last summer about which insurance companies have hiked rates the most in Georgia: http://investigations.blog.ajc.com/2017/07/25/auto-insurance-which-georgia-companies-hiked-your-bill-the-most/

Also take note of this: Consumers who have difficulty resolving claims with their insurer may contact the Department of Insurance's consumer call center at 404-656-2070. Online: https://www.oci.ga.gov/consumerservice/home.aspx

 


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About the Author

Carrie Teegardin is on the investigative team. She is a graduate of Duke University and has won numerous national journalism awards.