Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case requiring the court to determine which state’s law applied to the case. While the opinion is from a Georgia court, the choice-of-law issue is one that could potentially arise in any California car accident case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was formerly a Georgia resident who was attending school in California. Prior to leaving for California, the plaintiff’s parents bought her a car. The car was licensed and insured in Georgia.
One day, the plaintiff was involved in a car accident that she claimed was caused by the other driver’s negligence. The plaintiff settled her claim with the other driver and executed a general release of liability pursuant to the negotiations between the parties. However, the plaintiff claimed that her injuries exceeded the amount she recovered from the other driver, so she filed a claim with her own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision.
The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment from a Georgia court, asking the court to compel the insurance company to approve her claim. However, the insurance company argued that under Georgia law, when a general release of liability is issued, an underinsured motorist claim cannot be pursued. Indeed, Georgia law views underinsured motorist claims as derivative of the original claim, so if the plaintiff forfeits her right to pursue the underlying claim, she also forfeits her right to pursue an underinsured motorist claim. Thus, in order to proceed with an underinsured motorist claim in Georgia, the accident victim can only execute a limited release of liability form.
The plaintiff argued that California law should apply, rather than Georgia law. Under California law, the plaintiff would be able to submit the case to an arbitration panel, which would then make the decision if she could proceed with her underinsured motorist claim.
Ultimately, the court concluded that Georgia law should apply, and it dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The court explained that issues of procedural law are governed by the law in the jurisdiction where the case was filed, whereas issues of substantive law are governed by the law in the jurisdiction where the accident arose.
Here, the court looked at previous cases that held that the determination of what an accident victim must do to pursue an underinsured motorist claim was considered a procedural issue. Thus, since the issue in the case was procedural in nature, Georgia law applied. And since Georgia law applied, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While most California car accidents will involve vehicles licensed and insured in California, the above case illustrates that accident victims should not assume that is the case. It is important that accident victims select a diligent personal injury attorney to handle their case, so these potential issues can be discovered before it is too late. The dedicated team of Southern California personal injury attorneys at Sharifi Firm has extensive experience handling all types of California car accident cases, including those involving out-of-state motorists. Call 866-422-7222 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Plaintiff’s Case Permitted to Proceed Against Private Company Responsible for Maintaining Traffic Lights, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2017
California Court Discusses the Scope of Church’s Duty to Parishioner in Recent Premises Liability Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, November 27, 2017