Just Have the Minimum Car Insurance Required by Law? You May Want to Rethink That Decision

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If you think you can save some money by skimping on your auto insurance coverage in South Carolina, it might be a good idea to reassess your priorities. In many cases, the minimum coverage required by state law will not be enough to keep you from risking the possibility of financial ruin, even if an accident is not your fault. This is especially true if you are involved in an accident with a driver who has insufficient insurance coverage or no coverage at all, according to Attorney Ben Akery at The Steinberg Law Firm.

“If you don’t have excess uninsured and underinsured coverage, you’re basically trusting every other driver on the road to have enough insurance to protect you,” Akery stated.

In South Carolina, drivers are required to be insured for:

  • Property damage - $25,000 per accident
  • Bodily injury - $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury - $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist property damage - $25,000 per accident

It is important to note that underinsured motorist coverage, commonly referred to as UIM, is not mandatory in the Palmetto State. UIM helps make up the difference when the limits of the insurance coverage carried by the driver who is at fault are not high enough to pay for all your damages or injuries. This can be a major problem, Akery pointed out, when the injured person’s medical bills are over the amount of insurance coverage. Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently in South Carolina.

“The best option is to have enough insurance,” he said, pointing out that in South Carolina, you can stack your UIM insurance – for example, if you have three vehicles and $100,000 in UIM coverage on each, you actually have $300,000 in UIM coverage if one of your insured vehicles is involved in the collision.

Skimping on your insurance coverage also can become a major problem if you are found to be at fault in an accident involving more than one person. For example, what would happen if you ran a red light and hit another car with a driver and three passengers? If you were carrying the minimum amount of coverage, your insurance company would be responsible to pay only $50,000 for injuries to four people. If you have any assets at all, they could be at risk if the injured parties sue you and obtain a verdict or judgment in excess of your insurance policy limits.

The “Tyger River Doctrine” is often invoked in the Palmetto State. Under this doctrine, if an attorney for a seriously injured party demands that an insurance carrier tender their policy limits in good faith in a timely manner and the insurance carrier fails to do so and consequently puts their insured’s personal assets in jeopardy, that insurance carrier may be liable for bad faith to their own insured.

Health insurance does come into play in an accident. Some health insurance plans may refuse to cover accident injuries, or they will file a claim to get reimbursed in the event you receive a settlement or verdict. This is referred to as a subrogation claim.

If you have health insurance, it is prudent to use it for all of your collision-related medical treatment. Your injury attorney can work with your health insurance carrier(s) to negotiate and settle your medical bill subrogation liens in a manner that is more beneficial to you than dealing with the full outstanding bills from the treatment providers.

What is the right amount of insurance? That depends on your personal situation and how much risk you are willing to take. “We routinely see individuals who are severely injured without enough insurance coverage. Oftentimes, it is not just the initial injury, but long-term medical conditions that require future care and surgical intervention,” commented Akery.

Find out more about automobile accident injuries by contacting the Steinberg Law Firm, which has offices in Charleston, Summerville, and Goose Creek, at 843-720-2800. For more information, visit www.steinberglawfirm.com.